Jan 31, 2023
House Republicans Move Ahead With Effort to Oust Omar from Panel
(Bloomberg) -- The US House is set to vote as early as Wednesday on a resolution to remove Democrat Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee as Speaker Kevin McCarthy persuaded at least two Republican holdouts to support the move.
The vote is an early test of McCarthy’s ability to win floor fights despite his narrow majority and fractious caucus. Floor action on the resolution was set during a contentions Rules Committee meeting Tuesday night.
McCarthy had earlier Tuesday persuaded Republicans Victoria Spartz of Indiana and Thomas Massie of Kentucky to back the resolution. Spartz had previously opposed it, and Massie was on the fence.
The Rules panel advanced to the House floor a resolution laying out accusations that Omar had used antisemitic tropes in past comments, for which she has since apologized, saying she should be removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Omar, by her own words, has disqualified herself from serving on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, a panel that is viewed by nations around the world as speaking for Congress on matters of international importance and national security,” the resolution states.
Omar, who represents a Minnesota district that includes Minneapolis, didn’t immediately respond Tuesday night to a request for comment, through a spokesman.
She was one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, both elected in 2018, and was the first to wear a hijab on the House floor. Born in Somalia, her family fled Mogadishu during that country’s civil war and spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp.
“This is about vengeance. This is about spite. This is about politics,” Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, the committee’s top Democrat, told Republicans on Tuesday. “We have real problems in this country? And this is what we’re doing?”
McGovern’s comment was a reference to McCarthy and other Republicans openly characterizing their efforts to deny Omar a seat on the panel as a response to then-Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi removed two Republicans from committees in the last Congress — Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona.
“You were warned. You were warned in the last Congress. You were warned if you went down this road,” Representative Michael Burgess of Texas, the Republican vice chair, told Democrats.
Much of the Rules Committee debate Tuesday night turned into a back-and-forth about which party’s actions in tossing members off committees has, or is, is the more partisan action. Republicans also underscored that Omar is not being removed from her seat on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, while Greene and Gosar were removed from all committees.
Among the issues contained in the resolution against Omar, was her implying in February 2019 that American political support for Israel, is “all about the Benjamins, baby.” There was condemnation by Republicans and Democrats alike for her use of an anti-Semitic trope, and she later apologized.
In February 2021, the House voted to remove Greene from the Education and Budget committees citing her incendiary tweets and statements, including support for the QAnon conspiracy theory. Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in ousting her from the panels.
Gosar was removed from the Oversight and Natural Resources panels after posting an altered anime video that depicted him killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and attacking President Joe Biden. Two Republicans joined Democrats in that vote.
McCarthy last week unilaterally blocked California Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the Intelligence Committee. Under House rules, the Intelligence panel does not require a full vote of the House to strip someone of membership.
There was also debate over whether the resolution’s language provides Omar a genuine right of appeal to the Ethics Committee, which earlier in the day had been depicted as having helped McCarthy gain support from some hesitant Republicans.
The resolution states: “any member reserves the right to bring a case before the Committee on Ethics as grounds for an appeal to the speaker of the House for reconsideration of any committee removal decision.”
But Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, a Democrat who is the top Democrat on the Ethics panel, said the Ethics Committee’s rules do not allow such an appeal.
(Updated throughout to reflect Rules Comittee meeting.)
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