GOP seeks Omar ouster from Foreign Affairs panel for past comments seen as antisemitic

Republican lawmaker says Democrat ‘brought dishonor’ to the House; her backers say effort to boot her from committee is motivated by vengeful politics

US House Representative Ilhan Omar speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
US House Representative Ilhan Omar speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Newly empowered House Republicans are preparing to oust Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee over comments she has made critical of Israel — and as payback after Democrats booted far-right Republicans from panels for incendiary, violent remarks.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been eager to flex Republican power to remove the Minnesota Democrat after he blocked two other Democrats, Representative Adam Schiff and Representative Eric Swalwell, from rejoining the House Intelligence Committee once the GOP took control of the chamber in the new Congress.

Votes could come as soon as Wednesday on the resolution against Omar, a Somali immigrant and Muslim lawmaker who has apologized for comments she has said she came to understand were viewed as antisemitic.

In 2012, during a conflict between Israel and Gaza terror groups, Omar wrote on Twitter, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

While serving in Congress in 2019, Omar tweeted that US support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” slang for $100 bills. She has also called Israel an apartheid regime, expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel, and compared Israel and the US to Hamas and the Taliban.

In an interview with CNN this week, Omar said she hadn’t been aware that there are tropes about Jews and money.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy arrives for a closed-door meeting with the Republican Conference, at the Capitol in Washington, January 31, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Her supporters said the effort to boot her from the committee was motivated by petty politics, though.

“This is about vengeance. This is about spite. This is about politics,” said Representative James McGovern of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Rules Committee, as Republicans called a hurried meeting late Tuesday to consider the resolution.

McGovern argued that Democrats had removed Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, and Representative Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona, for remarks that were far more extreme and violent against fellow lawmakers than those Omar had made and apologized for.

The resolution against Omar was proposed by Republican Representative Max Miller of Ohio, a former official in the Trump administration. It says that “Omar’s comments have brought dishonor to the House of Representatives” and she should be removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

McCarthy has strained to ensure he has enough support from his Republican ranks to oust Omar. Republicans command a slim majority and several GOP lawmakers have been reluctant to engage in tit-for-tat retribution against colleagues.

But GOP leaders moved ahead late Tuesday with the resolution against Omar after several holdouts signaled their support.

The action against Omar pushed ahead after embattled Republican Rep. George Santos announced earlier Tuesday he would be stepping aside from his own committee assignments as the House Ethics Committee investigates his actions. The New York Republican has acknowledged embellishments about his education, work experience and other aspects of his personal and professional life, including false claims that he was Jewish.

Several Republicans have been wary of taking action against Omar while they are also having to answer for the many questions emerging about Santos.

US House Representative George Santos leaves a House GOP conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

No vote has been set on the resolution against Omar, but it could come as soon as Wednesday, aides said. Republicans said they are waiting for Democrats to formally nominate Omar to the Foreign Affairs Committee, on which she served in the last Congress. Once the committee roster is approved by the whole House, the Republicans would move to strip her of the seat.

With his slim majority, McCarthy acknowledged at the start of the week that member absences were having an impact on his ability to schedule the vote.

Omar told CNN in an interview Sunday that the move against her is “politically motivated.”

“It’s motivated by the fact that many of these members don’t believe a Muslim, a refugee, an African should even be in Congress, let alone have the opportunity to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee,” she said.

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