What did Rep Ilhan Omar say that made Republicans want to remove her from a committee?

Republicans want to remove the Minnesota Democrat from the House Foreign Affairs committee and have accused her of antisemitism

Eric Garcia
Thursday 02 February 2023 17:54 GMT
Ilhan Omar blasted for claiming she was unaware of tropes about 'Jews and money'

House Republicans have voted to remove Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and many other Republicans, and even some Democrats, pinned their push for her removal on claims that her criticisms of Israel amount to antisemitism.

In 2019, Mr McCarthy, then the House minority leader, said he hoped to sanction Ms Omar and Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the first two Muslim female members of Congress, for their previous comments about Israel. That came after the House condemned then-representative Steve King after he made racist remarks and removed him from his committees in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote.

At the time, media provocateur Glenn Greenwald tweeted that it was “stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech and human rights.”

In response, Ms Omar tweeted that “it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” But many members of Congress, including some Democrats, thought that Ms Omar’s comments played into old antisemitic stereotypes of Jewish people using money to influence governments.

That earned condemnation not only from Republicans but also from some Democrats, including all of House Democratic leadership at the time.

“We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments,” a joint statement at the time said.

In response, Ms Omar issued an apology.

“Anti-semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on anti-Semitic tropes,” she said at the time. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.”

But Ms Omar did decry the influence of money in politics as a whole.

“At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry,” she said. “It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”

Now Republicans have successfully removed her from the Foreign Affairs Committee, in response to the House previously removing Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from their committees. Ms Greene was removed for promoting conspiracy theories and racist rhetoric before her time in Congress.

House Republicans voted for a rule on Wednesday to remove Ms Omar from the committee, the first procedural hurdle to clear before a full vote to oust her.

The final vote came on Thursday, with 218 in favour to 211 against. No Democrats voted in favour of the resolution.

This comes after Mr McCarthy removed Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of California, from the House Intelligence Committee.

But Mr Gosar faced a censure and lost his committee assignments after he posted a video of the anime Attack on Titan wherein a character with his head killed a character with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s head photoshopped on it.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries slammed the GOP effort during a press conference on Thursday, describing it as an act of “political revenge.”

Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida told The Independent there was a distinct difference between the sanctions placed on Mr Gosar and Ms Greene versus Ms Omar.

“If you threaten ... violence against a colleague that warrants the House, we're removing you from committees,” she said. Ms Wasserman Schultz is Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel and criticised Ms Omar’s remarks at the time.

“I thought they were offensive and antisemitic at the time,” she said. “But if we remove people from communities every time we think what they say is offensive, then none of us will end up on committees eventually.”

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