Republicans demand removal of Ilhan Omar from Foreign Affairs Committee | Politics News

Washington DC – In one of his first moves since becoming Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy is leading efforts to prevent Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee because of her past criticism of Israel.

On Wednesday, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives decided to remove Omar from the committee. Democrats opposed the move, accusing McCarthy of bigotry for targeting the politician — a former refugee of Somali descent who is one of only two Muslim women serving in the US Congress.

Several Republicans initially opposed McCarthy’s effort, casting doubt on his ability to pass a resolution against Omar, given the narrow GOP majority.

But on Wednesday, all 218 House Republicans present voted to continue the measure, as Democrats remained united in their support of Omar with 209 votes. A final vote is expected Thursday as progressives rally around Omar.

The Congress Progressive Caucus (CPC) defended Omar, calling her a “respected and invaluable” lawmaker.

“You can’t remove a member of Congress from a committee just because you don’t agree with their views. This is both ridiculous and dangerous,” CPC president Pramila Jayapal said on Monday.


The resolution targeting Omar, introduced Tuesday by Ohio Republican Max Miller, cites a number of controversies that include the congresswoman’s criticism of Israel and American foreign policy.

“Congresswoman Omar clearly cannot be an objective decision maker on the Foreign Affairs Committee given her bias against Israel and the Jewish people,” Miller said in a statement.

Omar countered by saying there was nothing “objectively true” about the resolution, adding that “if non-objectivity was the reason not to work on committees, no one would be on committees.”

Although the Republican resolution accuses Omar of anti-Semitism, it only refers to remarks that refer to Israel, not the Jewish people.

For example, the measure calls out the congresswoman for describing Israel as an “apartheid state,” even though leading human rights groups — including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — have also accused Israel of imposing an apartheid system on Palestinians.

Early in her congressional career in 2019, Omar faced a firestorm of criticism when she suggested that political donations from pro-Israel lobby groups — including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) — were fueling support for Israel in Washington.

Omar later apologized for the remark, but Palestinian rights advocates say the accusations of anti-Semitism against Israel’s critics are aimed at stifling debate about Israeli government policies.

In the past two years, AIPAC and other pro-Israel organizations have spent millions of dollars in congressional elections to defeat progressives who support Palestinian human rights, including Andy Levin of Michigan, a left-wing, Jewish former member of the House of Representatives.

‘Different standards’

Although the Democratic Party now stands behind Omar, the Republican resolution highlights previous criticism of the congresswoman by top Democrats.

Lara Friedman, president of the Middle East Peace Foundation, an advocacy and research group, said Republicans are trying to assert their anti-Omar positions by using the statements and actions of Democrats.

“They own this,” she said of Democrats who previously attacked Omar. “They made a decision in the last few years to get involved and score expensive political points at Ilhana’s expense… And that decision is now the basis for the resolution being used to kick her out of the board.”

Friedman added that Omar and fellow Muslim-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib are held to “different standards” when it comes to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Both lawmakers were the subject of racist attacks from former President Donald Trump, who tweeted in 2019 that they, along with other progressive congresswomen of color, “should go back to the broken and crime-ridden places they came from.”

Omar in particular has become a frequent target of Trump’s anti-refugee rhetoric ahead of the 2020 election. At one rally in 2019, Trump failed to intervene as his supporters chanted “send her back” referring to Omar.

Friedman said the attacks on Omar appeal to the Republican base and are good for the party politically.

“It’s a really convenient way to embarrass the Democrats and put them in a corner because when the Democrats vote against this tomorrow, the Republican argument will be, ‘I don’t get it. You said all those things [against Omar]. Why don’t you hold her accountable?’ Politically, this is just fantastic for them.”

For his part, Omar remained defiant, calling McCarthy’s effort to remove her from the board, despite initial opposition from his own club, “pathetic.”

Yasmine Taeb, legislative and policy director of the MPower Change Action Fund, a Muslim-American advocacy group, praised Omar’s commitment to a “human rights-focused foreign policy.”

“Tail. Omar speaks truth to those in power – a rarity in Congress. And the House Republican leadership would rather waste their time attacking a progressive black Muslim woman and pushing a far-right agenda than working to address the needs of the American people,” Taeb said in an email to Al Jazeera.

Omar was a vocal advocate of human rights and diplomacy in Congress. Although her comments about Israel often make headlines, she also criticizes other countries – including those in the Middle East – for human rights abuses.

Still, critics accuse her of perpetuating anti-Semitic tropes in her criticism of Israel, and even allies have described some of her comments as “sloppy,” if not malicious.

On Thursday, Victory Without War, a group that promotes diplomacy in American foreign policy, denounced the Republican push against Omar as an attempt to deprive the House Foreign Affairs Committee of a “progressive champion and skilled legislator who challenges the political status quo.”

“Tail. Omar helped raise the bar for progressive foreign policy in Congress. She has steadfastly pushed for cuts to the Pentagon budget, held America’s allies accountable for human rights abuses, and confronted the racism and Islamophobia present in American foreign policy,” Win Without War Executive Director Sara Haghdoosti said in a statement.

Committee wars

Congressional committees serve as specialized microcosms of Congress. Panels promote legislation, conduct oversight and have enormous power over the legislative process.

Usually, the ruling party appoints the chairmen and most of the committee members, while the opposition party appoints its legislators to the panels.

But back in 2021, Democrats voted to remove Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committees because of past conspiratorial, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments.

That same year, the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives formally reprimanded Paul Gosar, another far-right Republican, for sharing an animated video showing him killing Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Now Greene is an outspoken advocate of removing Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

“No one should be on that committee with that attitude toward Israel,” Greene said earlier this week. “In my opinion, I think that’s the wrong attitude for any member of the United States Congress to have — to have that attitude toward our great ally, Israel.”

After Greene was removed from the committee, McCarthy openly vowed revenge on Democrats if they became the minority in the House, which happened in the 2022 midterm elections.

“You will regret this. And you might regret this a lot sooner than you think,” McCarthy said at the time.

The president-elect also blocked Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from joining the intelligence committee. Schiff was the former chairman of the panel.

Meanwhile, Republican Congressman George Santos, who is facing calls to resign for lying about his heritage and professional and personal history, has “temporarily stepped down” from his commission duties as he is under investigation for campaign conduct.

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