WASHINGTON – The Republican-led House Thursday is expected to remove Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Relations Committee over previous comments she made about Israel that members of both parties viewed as antisemitic.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told CNN Thursday he has the votes to remove Omar from the committee she’s served on since 2019.
Republican leaders have threatened to take action against Omar over a number of controversial statements she’s made since she came to Capitol Hill four years ago.
But the GOP calls got louder last year when the Democrat-led House stripped Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., of committee assignments for menacing social media posts. Both GOP lawmakers have been reinstated to committees this Congress.
Born in Somalia, Omar fled the country’s civil war when she was eight. The family spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before arriving in the United States, according to her congressional biography. In 1997, she moved to Minneapolis with her family, living in the city that she now represents in Congress.
A prominent progressive in Congress, Omar, who is Muslim, has been a fierce critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and routinely questions U.S. aid to the Middle East ally.
What has Omar said about Israel?
Omar faced criticism in 2019 from both sides of the aisle for comments she made during a town hall and for controversial Twitter replies.
During the town hall event, Omar suggested Israel demands “allegiance” from American lawmakers, adding that “a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, (think) that everything we say about Israel (is) anti-Semitic because we are Muslim.”
Critics condemned Omar’s comments. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a statement that “the charge of dual loyalty not only raises the ominous specter of classic anti-Semitism, but it is also deeply insulting to the millions upon millions of patriotic Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, who stand by our democratic ally, Israel.”
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More:Trump says Rep. Ilhan Omar should be ‘ashamed’ over ‘anti-Semitic’ tweet condemned by Dem leaders
Omar also faced backlash when she responded to a Tweet from journalist Glenn Greenwald who shared an article about then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy considering “action” against Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., for their criticisms of Israel. Omar and Tlaib are the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress.
“It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans,” Greenwald tweeted.
“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar replied on Twitter, referencing $100 bills.
Then, a columnist replied that she “would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess.”
“AIPAC!” Omar tweeted in response, referencing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Omar apologized for the posts the next day and deleted the tweets, but the Twitter reply sparked outrage even among Democratic leadership.
The congresswoman also was admonished in 2021 for a tweet in which she demanded accountability and justice for “unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”
“Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided,” Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider and 11 other Democrats wrote in a joint statement in response to her tweet.
Her comment in 2019 that “some people did something” in describing the Sept. 11 attacks drew harsh rebuke from Republicans as well as family members of those killed in the terrorist attack. She said her comments were taken out of context, noting that Muslims across the nation became immediate targets.
“What I was speaking to was the fact that as a Muslim, not only was I suffering as an American who was attacked on that day, but the next day I woke up as my fellow Americans were now treating me a suspect,” she told Face the Nation later that year. “To some people, it’s easy for them to not think of me as an American, as someone who would not have the same feelings as they did as we were being attacked on American soil.”
More:Rep. Ilhan Omar responds to House committee chair’s charge of ‘vile, anti-Semitic slur’
Move to oust Omar follows McCarthy decision to block Democrats Swalwell, Schiff from Intelligence panel
Last month, McCarthy decided to block California Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff from continuing to serve on the House Intelligence Committee as political payback for Democrats removing Greene and Gosar’s committee seats.
McCarthy accused Schiff of lying to the public during the Jan. 6 hearings to investigate the attack on the Capitol and said Swalwell would be unable to obtain a security clearance in the private sector.
As he campaigned to help Republicans take back the House last year, McCarthy vowed to strip Omar of her Foreign Relations seat if he was elected speaker. In an interview last year with the conservative media site Breitbart, McCarthy said removing Omar was due in part to Democrats using a “new standard” in removing Greene and Gosar.
“I just think being on Foreign Affairs, the rest of the world looks at that,” McCarthy told POLITICO. “It’s not if, it’ll be when she makes another statement like that.”
The vote to oust Omar from Foreign Relations, a committee which she has served on since 2019, follows Democrats reappointing her to serve on the committee last week. The resolution to oust her only needs a simple majority to pass but no Democrat is expected to support it and it’s not clear McCarthy has all the Republican votes he needs.
“McCarthy’s effort to repeatedly single me out for scorn and hatred – including threatening to strip me from my committee – does nothing to address the issues our constituents deal with,” Omar said in a statement.
J Street, a left-of-center Jewish lobby focused on U.S.-Israeli relations, urged McCarthy not to go ahead with Omar’s ouster.
“We may not agree with some of Congresswoman Omar’s opinions, but we categorically reject the suggestion that any of her policy positions or statements merit disqualification from her role on the committee,” the group said in a December statement.
The ‘squad’ and other broadsides leveled at Omar
Omar also has been on the receiving end of insults and slurs.
Former President Donald Trump derisively referred to Omar, Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., as ‘The Squad,’ at one point telling the female lawmakers of color they should “go back” to other countries.
In November 2021, Colorado GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert made Islamophobic comments about Omar during a campaign event. The congresswoman called the Minnesota lawmaker “Jihad squad” and insinuated she was a terrorist in a video posted to Twitter by extremist watchdog PatriotTakes.
In the video, Boebert claimed a Capitol police officer ran toward a closing elevator door with Boebert, a staffer and Omar inside.
“I look to my left, and there she is: Ilhan Omar. And I said ‘Well, she doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine,'” Boebert said.
The congresswoman then allegedly turned to Omar and said, “The Jihad squad decided to show up for work today.”
Omar claimed the incident never took place and never received an apology from Boebert.
More:‘The Squad’: These are the four congresswomen Trump told to ‘go back’ to other countries
Story Credit: usatoday.com