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U.S. House votes to remove Omar from Foreign Affairs Committee

Feb. 2, 2023 Updated Thu., Feb. 2, 2023 at 10:02 p.m.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 26 in Washington, D.C. She was removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.  (Tribune News Service)
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 26 in Washington, D.C. She was removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday. (Tribune News Service)
By Hunter Woodall (Minneapolis) Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Star Tribune

WASHINGTON – U.S. House Republicans voted Thursday to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee, following through on a GOP promise to oust the Minnesota Democrat from a prized position.

Thursday’s action on the House floor is a culmination of sorts for Republicans who have long targeted Omar, a Muslim woman and refugee who made history as the first Somali American elected to Congress.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., vowed to remove Omar from the panel, and tweeted after the November midterms that he would do so because of her “repeated anti-semitic and anti-American remarks.”

Omar has called out McCarthy and Republicans for their plans to remove her.

“My leadership and voice will not be diminished if I am not on this committee for one term. My voice will get louder,” Omar said on the House floor before voting started.

After first winning her seat in 2018, Omar spent two terms on the House foreign affairs panel as Democrats controlled the chamber. Some of her controversies caused bipartisan backlash. She apologized early in her first term for a tweet viewed as being antisemitic, and has also apologized over a 2012 tweet that said “Israel has hypnotized the world.” A 2019 comment about Israel in which Omar said “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” was criticized.

Omar faced further bipartisan criticism in 2021 over a tweet concerning a committee hearing that said “we have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. I asked @SecBlinken where people are supposed to go for justice.” She attempted to clarify the post, saying in a statement she “was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”

In a CNN interview earlier this week, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer said Omar’s past remarks and behavior have disqualified her from serving on the panel.

“Ms. Omar has proven she should not be on this committee,” said Emmer, a Minnesotan who is the third-highest ranking House Republican.

Republicans have frequently focused on Omar in their attacks on moderate Democrats during congressional campaigns. Omar has faced anti-Muslim comments from far-right House Republicans. The Democrat’s 2018 victory made her one of the first two Muslim women elected to serve in Congress.

On Wednesday night, Omar tweeted audio of a profanity-filled death threat she said her office recently received.

“These threats increase whenever Republicans put a target on my back,” Omar tweeted. “They can continue to target me, but they will never stop me from fighting for a more just world.”

The GOP is only going after Omar’s post on foreign affairs and she will be able to keep her slot on a separate panel on education and the workforce. Last week, McCarthy used his authority as speaker to deny two California Democrats from serving on the House Intelligence Committee. But because of different chamber standards, removing Omar from the foreign affairs panel requires a floor vote.

“This to me is just pure revenge politics,” Minnesota Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum said earlier this week about the move against Omar.

In 2021, the Democratic-controlled House actions against two far-right Republicans.

Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene lost her committees in a bipartisan vote after Democrats noted her earlier violent rhetoric and embrace of conspiracy theories. A similar push, supported by Democrats and two Republicans, resulted in the removal of Arizona GOP Rep. Paul Gosar from his committee posts because his social media account posted an animated video of him using a sword to kill Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

The new Republican-led House put Gosar and Greene back on committees.

In the lead-up to Thursday’s debate, GOP lawmakers didn’t shy away from the idea that the opportunity to remove Omar from the committee was created by Democrats moving against their Republican colleagues.

“We are a body of precedent,” Minnesota GOP Rep. Michelle Fischbach said during a rules meeting earlier this week, adding that “this precedent was set.”

But as momentum built within the GOP, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Angie Craig said that comparing Omar’s situation to that of Greene and Gosar is “a completely false equivalency.”

“These were members of Congress who literally promoted violence against other members of Congress,” Craig said of the two Republicans.

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