After years of threats, House Republicans took the drastic step of kicking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from a key congressional committee over past comments that invoked antisemitic tropes.
In a Thursday vote on the House floor, a majority of lawmakers voted to remove Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, with zero Republicans voting with all Democrats to back Omar.
The Minneapolis congresswoman has apologized for the remarks in question, which were directed toward the state of Israel and pro-Israel lobbying groups in 2019. But Republicans have continued to argue those comments were disqualifying for her service on the Foreign Affairs panel, despite the glaring record of blatantly antisemitic comments by powerful figures like former President Donald Trump.
Ahead of the vote, Omar—a Muslim woman born in war-torn Somalia who immigrated to the U.S.—spoke of her background in a speech in front of the House, casting it as a driving factor behind Republican efforts to penalize her.
“Is anyone surprised that I’m being targeted?” Omar said. “They see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced… I will continue to speak up, because representation matters.”
The vote caps House GOP efforts to kick Democrats off committees in retaliation for Democrats’ removal of a pair of far-right lawmakers, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ), from their posts in 2021 because of their violent rhetoric and social media activity.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) already removed Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) from the House Intelligence Committee, which he was able to do unilaterally due to the unique structure of that panel.
With Omar, McCarthy had to win the support of the GOP conference to take her off Foreign Affairs. For several days, it was unclear if he would succeed.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) forewarned she would not vote to oust Omar, dubbing it a distraction from actual policymaking. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) appeared to be in the same position, insisting there was a double standard at play. Even conservative Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) was chilly on the prospect, citing his relationship with Omar.
Republicans bashed Democrats for removing members from committees over inappropriate remarks. Spartz argued Republicans should’t do the same thing to Omar.
McCarthy could only afford to lose three votes before losing the vote altogether. Usually, McCarthy is working with a four seat majority, but Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) is recovering at home after falling off a ladder.
But Tuesday night, Spartz struck a deal with McCarthy to allow some language for “due process” in the resolution to oust Omar, which appeared to satisfy those Republicans who were concerned.
Omar will be allowed to appeal the decision with the House Ethics Committee—though it’s unlikely to actually change the outcome.