Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Oust from House Committee Sparks Conversation

By Amoli Deshpande – Correspondent

In a polarizing move by Republicans, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was voted off her powerful seat on the House Foreign Affairs committee on February 2, 2023, signaling a major victory for the new GOP House majority. 

The vote count was split down party lines with 211 democrats siding with Omar, while the freshly elected Republican majority was able to secure 218 votes to pass the resolution, albeit Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) voted present. This vote comes following the Democratic-led 2021 vote to remove Representatives Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from their respective committee assignments. 

Many Republicans cited Omar’s stance on the Israel-US relationship as a key factor of her ousting. The bill was introduced by first-term Jewish, Rep. Max Miller (R-OH), who also cited the Minnesota Democrat’s various comments which could be interpreted as anti-semitic, though the Democrat did eventually apologize for these comments.

Rep. Miller (R-OH) connects his Jewish-Israeli background to the reason he didn’t want Omar on the committees. He also said that Omar needs to be more sensitive to the Israeli-American relationship. “As someone who is very Jewish and very connected to the Jewish community, I cannot sit idly by and watch someone spew this type of rhetoric who wants to sit on Foreign Affairs, and has already said nasty things about Israel, when it’s already a tenuous situation and has been in the Middle East since [Israel’s] inception,” said Miller. 

Omar defended herself following the vote. She says that she is being singled out because of her background as a Muslim immigrant from Africa. “Well, I am Muslim. I am an immigrant and, interestingly, from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy? Or that they seem me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced? Frankly it is expected,” said Omar. 

Omar has said and tweeted some anti-semitic comments since 2012. With her most recent one being in mid-February 2019, where she suggested that US political leaders that defend Israel are only doing it for money in response to criticism from pro-Israel leaders of her stance on the US-Israel relationship. “It’s all about the Benjamin’s baby” she tweeted. 

She later apologized in a statement, saying she was grateful for the education she received on anti-semitic tropes in history and clarifies that she didn’t mean to hurt any Jewish-Americans or her constituents.

“Anti-semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-semitic tropes. My intention is to never offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole…This is why I unequivocally apologize.” said Omar. 

Rep. Kevin Mccarthy (R-CA) the House Majority leader, says these and other comments she made put America in danger. “It puts America in jeopardy, and I’m not going to do that under my watch,” said Mccarthy. 

The Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs committee, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX)  says there is a huge contrast between her views on Israel and the foreign affairs committee’s views on Israel and he says this contrast is much more striking when she started making Anti-semitic comments. “It’s just that her [Omar’s] worldview of Israel is so diametrically opposed to the committee’s. I don’t mind having differences of opinion, but this goes beyond that,” he said. 

Many Democrats found the vote hypocritical, considering there have been anti-semtic comments made by Republicans, too. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) believed that it is hypocritical of Republicans to oust Omar from a committee, but elevate Rep. Greene following her comments on Jewish space lasers. 

“Don’t tell me that this is about a condemnation of antisemitic remarks when you have a member of the Republican caucus who has talked about Jewish space lasers — and an entire amount of tropes — and also elevated her to some of the highest committee assignments in this body,” she said.

Some Republicans defended themselves against such comments. Rep. Nicole Malitakis (R-NY) says she has the same expectations from Democrats, as she does for Republicans. “…I hold the same standard for this side of the aisle that I do the other,” said Maliotakis. 

For some Democrats the vote was still a hard one to cast following the comments she made. Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) said in a statement that the purpose of his vote, to keep Omar on her seat, was to just prevent the politicization of committee assignments, not to support the comments she made. 

“My vote was not a vote in support of Congresswoman Omar. Someone with her record of hateful comments does not belong on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. My vote was a vote to protect the institution, for democracy, and for preventing the weaponization of committee selection,” said Moskowitz.

Soon after the vote, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) , who is the House Minority leader, said he had appointed Omar to the House Budget Committee, where she will defend against what he deemed extremist republican values. “she will defend Democratic values against right-wing extremism,” said Jeffries. 

Omar also remained defiant in her ability to productively serve as a House Representative. “My leadership and voice will not be diminished if I am not on this committee for one term. My voice will get louder and stronger and my leadership will be celebrated around the world as it has been. So take your votes or not. I am here to stay and I am here to be a voice against harms around the world and advocate [for] a far better world,” said Omar.

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