WASHINGTON – It wasn’t just Democrats who had difficulty remaining unified after one of their most liberal members was accused of anti-Semitism for suggesting that House supporters of Israel have dual allegiances.
Almost two dozen Republicans stirred up a mini-tempest within their party for opposing the Democratic resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other bigotry in a Thursday vote. For them, any worries about the optics of opposing a resolution condemning bigotry and hate were outweighed by their conviction that the resolution was a sham.
Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, broke with other top party leaders. She called the resolution – crafted after Rep. Ilhan Omar’s controversial comments – “a sham put forward by Democrats to avoid condemning one of their own and denouncing vile anti-Semitism.”
Cheney’s break with other top Republicans like Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was perhaps most noteworthy about the episode since leadership teams on Capitol Hill rarely display such divisions publicly.
“We’re stronger when we all vote together. But everybody has their own voting card,” McCarthy said Friday.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, one of only two Jewish Republicans in the House, said the resolution should have condemned Omar directly.
“No, now we can’t come here and just emphatically, solely, forcefully condemn anti-Semitism and name names. But if it was a Republican, we would,” Zeldin said. “It is time to call out these statements for what they are: pointed, bigoted, unreasonable, illegitimate, anti-Semitic.”
GOP Leader McCarthy was spotted apparently trying to convince GOP lawmakers like Louis Gohmert of Texas not to muddle the message by voting against the anti-bigotry resolution. And Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, stripped of his committee assignments by GOP leaders after a history of racist remarks, voted “present.”
In all, 23 Republicans opposed the resolution.
“We had some members say, `Well this is a sham’ and they voted `no’ as a matter of protest – not about the contents of the resolution, but about the absolute stupid way that the Democrats acted in constructing this resolution,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who voted for it.
“It was a show vote and it was a sham,” said Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla. “They should have treated (Omar) the same way they treated Rep. King.”
Many Democrats were unhappy about the Omar episode, the second time she has drawn a rebuke. The controversy stomped on Democrats’ main message of the week, a political reform bill that passed on Friday.
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