Some in House GOP broke with party on Omar resolution

Liz Cheney among 23 Republicans who opposed anti-bigotry bill they say is a ‘sham’ by the Democrats to avoid condemning one of their own for anti-Semitism

House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney outside the House chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, March 8, 2019 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney outside the House chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, March 8, 2019 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — It wasn’t just Democrats who had difficulty remaining unified after one of their most liberal members was accused of anti-Semitism for suggesting that House supporters of Israel have dual allegiances.

Almost two dozen Republicans stirred up a mini-tempest within their party for opposing the Democratic resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other bigotry in a Thursday vote. For them, any worries about the optics of opposing a resolution condemning bigotry and hate were outweighed by their conviction that the resolution was a sham.

Wyoming GOP Representative Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, broke with other top party leaders. She called the resolution — crafted after Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar’s controversial comments — “a sham put forward by Democrats to avoid condemning one of their own and denouncing vile anti-Semitism.”

Cheney’s break with other top Republicans like Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was perhaps most noteworthy about the episode since leadership teams on Capitol Hill rarely display such divisions publicly.

“We’re stronger when we all vote together. But everybody has their own voting card,” McCarthy said Friday.

Representative Lee Zeldin of New York, one of only two Jewish Republicans in the House, said the resolution should have condemned Omar directly.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at the Capitol in Washington, on February 13, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“No, now we can’t come here and just emphatically, solely, forcefully condemn anti-Semitism and name names. But if it was a Republican, we would,” Zeldin said. “It is time to call out these statements for what they are: pointed, bigoted, unreasonable, illegitimate, anti-Semitic.”

GOP Leader McCarthy was spotted apparently trying to convince GOP lawmakers like Louis Gohmert of Texas not to muddle the message by voting against the anti-bigotry resolution. And Representative Steve King of Iowa, stripped of his committee assignments by GOP leaders after a history of racist remarks, voted “present.”

In all, 23 Republicans opposed the resolution.

Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota sits with fellow Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee during a bill markup, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“We had some members say, ‘Well this is a sham’ and they voted ‘no’ as a matter of protest — not about the contents of the resolution, but about the absolute stupid way that the Democrats acted in constructing this resolution,” said Republican Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who voted for it.

“It was a show vote and it was a sham,” said Republican Representative Ted Yoho of Florida. “They should have treated [Omar] the same way they treated Rep. King.”

Many Democrats were unhappy about the Omar episode, the second time she has drawn a rebuke. The controversy stomped on Democrats’ main message of the week, a political reform bill that passed on Friday.

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