WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Thursday voted to impeach Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., From the Committee on Foreign Affairs – the latest skirmish in a long-running partisan battle over committee assignments.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy had initially dealt with a handful of GOP defectors, but on Thursday he and his team thrashed GOP members back in line, and 218 Republicans voted for the resolution condemning Omar for past anti-Semitic remarks and her was removed from the committee.
A Republican, Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, a senior member of the Ethics Committee, voted in attendance.
All 211 Democrats rallied behind Omar, who gave an emotional and challenging speech before the vote that left many of her colleagues in tears.
“There’s this idea that you’re a suspect if you’re an immigrant, or if you’re from certain parts of the world or if you’re a certain skin color, or a Muslim. It’s no coincidence that members of the Republican Party accused the first black President, Barack Obama, to be a secret Muslim,” said Omar, a Somali refugee who made history as one of the first two American Muslim women elected to Congress.
“Well, I’m Muslim,” she added. “I’m an immigrant, and interestingly, from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I’m being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I’m somehow deemed unworthy to speak about US foreign policy? Or that they see me like a powerful voice that must be hushed?”
Republicans defended their move, arguing that Omar’s anti-Semitic tropes she made several years ago disqualified her from serving on the State Department. In 2019, Omar angered both Democrats and Republicans — as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — when she tweeted that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other Jewish donors paid politicians to support Israel. Benjamin’s baby.
She also came under fire from fellow Democrats after they said she “equated the United States and Israel with Hamas and the Taliban.”
“How can someone who is not welcomed by one of our most important allies serve as a US foreign policy envoy on the Foreign Affairs Committee?” said Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, a former Trump White House aide who is Jewish who drafted Thursday’s resolution. “And given her biased remarks against Israel and against the Jewish people, how can she serve as an objective decision-maker on the committee?”
Others argued that Democrats took similar actions two years ago when they voted to expel two Republicans from their committees over racist and violent social media posts, and then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked two other Republicans from serving on the select panel from January 6.
Those comments made one of Omar’s closest allies, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., outraged, who was targeted by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and who spoke on Thursday against Republicans.
“Consistency? There is nothing consistent with the Republican party’s ongoing attacks except the racism and incitement to violence against women of color in this body,” Ocasio-Cortez said. and threatened all of you — and the Republican caucus awarded him one of the most prestigious commission assignments in this Congress.”
The vote to remove Omar almost fell through. Last week, several Republicans spoke out against the GOP’s crackdown on Omar, threatening to derail the resolution given their new, razor-thin majority.
But this week, those defectors began to fall into line. On Tuesday, Representative Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., flipped her vote to yes after meeting with McCarthy and securing language in the Omar resolution that would give lawmakers a chance to appeal removal from committees.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who was on the fence, said he would support the resolution. On Wednesday, Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., said he would change his vote to yes after speaking with McCarthy, saying the speaker was open to a proposed rule change that would make it harder to kick lawmakers out of committees .
Moments before the vote, Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, the only GOP holdout, from McCarthy’s office and announced she would also vote yes. Mace said she got a commitment from McCarthy to develop a better process for removing members from committees.
“We have a trial for today [censure]. We have a process today to remove members from Congress,” Mace told reporters. “We don’t have a process to remove members from their committee.”
Speaking to reporters after the vote, McCarthy said he just spoke with Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y. of commissions and the process of doing it. McCarthy said he would name Mace and Buck.
“In the future, every member of Congress will have a responsibility for how they conduct themselves. And it’s our responsibility to let them know what that is,” the speaker said.
“So I’m going to put together a group of Democrats who will select Hakeem and a group of Republicans, and we’ll work to clarify the rules and pass something for not just this Congress, but for future Congresses.”
McCarthy argued that the House action did not amount to a “tit-for-tat” against Democrats — Republicans will allow Omar to serve on other committees, he said.
But Omar’s impeachment is just the most recent example of how commission orders have been used by both sides over the past two years to punish lawmakers who cross the line.
It began in February 2021, when House Democrats — and 11 Republicans — voted to nominate far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. Pelosi and Obama.
Months later, Democrats also began to denounce and oust Gosar from his two committees after he tweeted an animated video showing him killing Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden.
That same year, Pelosi unilaterally blocked two of McCarthy’s picks — Reps Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Jim Banks, R-Ind. – of the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol; McCarthy and Republicans subsequently boycotted the special panel.
At the time, Republicans warned that Democrats would regret those decisions. When Republicans took back control of the House this year, they immediately reinstated Greene and Gosar to committees.
McCarthy then blocked two of Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries’ picks for the Intelligence Committee: former Chairman Adam Schiff and Representative Eric Swalwell, both California Democrats who played key roles in Trump’s impeachment process.
And on Thursday, McCarthy made good on his promise to kick Omar off the State Department panel, too.
“Representative. Omar certainly made mistakes. She has used anti-Semitic tropes that were clearly and unequivocally condemned by House Democrats when it took place four years ago,” Jeffries told reporters.
But he called Thursday’s vote “not a public policy debate. It’s not about accountability. It’s about political revenge.”