Rep. Ilhan Omar Ousted From Foreign-Affairs Committee by GOP

Democratic lawmaker has apologized for statements viewed as antisemitic

WASHINGTON—House Republicans ousted Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from her position on the Foreign Affairs Committee in a vote Thursday, citing her criticisms of Israel’s government and past statements that were criticized as antisemitic.

The House voted 218 to 211 along party lines on the resolution to remove her from the panel, with Republican Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio voting present. Ahead of the vote, Republican leaders won over some GOP lawmakers including Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, who had expressed concerns about free speech and heavily criticized the plan, by floating the idea of a new appeal process for barred members.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) promised last year that he would strip Ms. Omar of her foreign-affairs seat if the GOP won the midterms. Republicans had to wait for Ms. Omar’s committee assignment to be finalized, a step that occurred Wednesday, before being able to vote to remove her from the panel.

She is the third Democrat to be kicked off a committee by Republicans. Mr. McCarthy last week blocked Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of California, from serving on the House Intelligence Committee, which under House rules didn’t require a vote.

Mr. McCarthy has denied that ousting Ms. Omar or the other Democrats was retaliation for the last Congress, when Democrats removed two Republican members from committees. He said that the removals weren’t “tit for tat” and that the intelligence and foreign affairs panels were particularly sensitive.

“We just do not believe when it comes to foreign affairs, especially the responsibility of that position around the world with the comments that you make, she shouldn’t serve there,” he said of Ms. Omar after the vote.

Democrats accused Mr. McCarthy of blocking Ms. Omar and the two other Democratsin order to placate conservatives and get payback.

“What’s going to take place on the floor today is not a public-policy debate; it’s not about accountability—it’s about political revenge,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D., N.Y.).

Republicans have been pushing to punish Ms. Omar, who represents a Minnesota district, for her past comments since 2019, when she first came to Congress. She appeared in numerous attack ads for Republicans in the 2022 election cycle, with GOP lawmakers in tough races seeking to connect her and far-left lawmakers to their more moderate peers. 

In February 2019, Ms. Omar said: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” in reference to U.S. politicians defending Israel, a comment that many from both parties viewed as a trope connecting Jews to money. In 2012, before she was in Congress, Ms. Omar also said that “Israel has hypnotized the world,” and, “may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Ms. Omar apologized for her comments. 

At the time, several Democrats also criticized the comments, and some talked about backing a resolution to admonish her. In the end, the House voted on a resolution that condemned antisemitism and “the myth of dual loyalty, including allegations that Jews should be suspected of being disloyal neighbors or citizens.” It didn’t mention Ms. Omar by name. 

Republicans say they are following precedent set by Democrats in 2021. That year, the Democratic-controlled House voted to censure GOP Rep. Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.) and remove him from his committee assignments over an animated video he posted that showed him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and poised to attack President Biden. In another move, 11 Republicans joined with Democrats to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Ga.) from her committee assignments over her past embrace of conspiracy theories. Ms. Omar voted with her party to remove Mr. Gosar and Ms. Greene from their committee positions. 

Ms. Omar is one of two Muslim women in Congress and has been on the foreign-affairs panel since arriving to Congress in 2019. She says as a Somali refugee she represents a unique view on the panel. 

Ms. Omar says she supports a two-state solution, with internationally recognized borders for Israelis and Palestinians, and has been critical of Israeli government actions in Gaza and settlements in the West Bank. She has also said U.S. aid to Israel should be tied to its treatment of Palestinians, at times calling for a halt to aid altogether. Many lawmakers see U.S. aid as critical to maintaining a strong ally in the region. 

Ms. Omar has faced anti-Muslim comments. In 2021, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R., Colo.) made a joke casting Ms. Omar as a possible suicide bomber that drew criticism. Ms. Boebert issued an apology to Muslims. 

On Sunday, Ms. Omar said she has since learned more about antisemitism since her earlier comments.

“I certainly did not or was not aware that the word ‘hypnotize’ was a trope,” she said on CNN. “I wasn’t aware of the fact that there are tropes about Jews and money. That has been a very enlightening part of this journey.”

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