After GOP Wins House Control, Republican Leader Threatens Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Committee Role

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) arrives as U.S. House Republicans gather for leadership elections at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, November 15, 2022. (Reuters/Leah Millis/File Photo)

WASHINGTON (Star Tribune/TNS) – Republican Speaker hopeful Kevin McCarthy is vowing to stop Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar from serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee just days after the GOP won control of the U.S. House.

“Last year, I promised that when I became Speaker, I would remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee based on her repeated anti-semitic and anti-American remarks,” McCarthy tweeted with a video of his speech at a Republican Jewish Coalition event in Las Vegas over the weekend. “I’m keeping that promise.”

McCarthy’s reignited push was met with a scathing statement from Omar, in one of the first partisan flashpoints of the incoming Congress. The Minnesota Democrat said, “McCarthy’s effort to repeatedly single me out for scorn and hatred — including threatening to strip me from my committee — does nothing to address the issues our constituents deal with.”

“What it does is gin up fear and hate against Somali-Americans and anyone who shares my identity, and further divide us along racial and ethnic lines,” Omar added.

Omar apologized early in her first term for a tweet viewed as being antisemitic that implied money is behind lawmakers’ support for Israel. As a Muslim woman in Congress, she has also been the focus of anti-Muslim comments from some House Republicans.

It appears that Republicans would have to take up the matter in a vote on the House floor to follow through on McCarthy’s push, because a speaker of the opposing party wouldn’t have the sole ability to deny Omar the post in the next Congress.

Omar has served on the House foreign affairs panel during her first two terms, which she served under Democratic control. McCarthy has been vocal in criticizing Omar, including last year when she faced bipartisan pushback for a tweet 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.”

Soon after that controversy, McCarthy said on Fox News that “if we are fortunate enough to have the majority, Omar would not be serving on Foreign Affairs.”

McCarthy, a California Republican, was picked by many House Republicans as their nominee to become the next speaker but still needs to find enough support from within his party to win the speakership in an upcoming floor vote. Republicans may end up with a thin majority when all the races are finally called.

In her statement, Omar criticized Republicans, saying “they have openly tolerated antisemitism, anti-Muslim hate and racism in their own party.”

“Newly-elected Whip Tom Emmer said prominent Jewish Democrats ‘essentially bought control of Congress.’ And McCarthy himself accused Jewish Democrats of trying to ‘buy elections,'” Omar noted in her statement.

American Jewish World reported in 2019 that while running the House GOP’s campaign arm, Emmer sent a letter that was criticized as being antisemitic. The letter said news of Republicans’ work in Washington “was undercut by biased media and hundreds of millions of dollars of anti-Republican propaganda put out by liberal special interests, funded by deep-pocketed far-left billionaires George Soros, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg.”

It went on to say that “these left-wing radicals essentially BOUGHT control of Congress for the Democrats.”

Theresa Braid, a spokeswoman for Emmer, said in an email Monday that “we’re not going to validate Rep. Omar’s efforts to distract from her record of antisemitism.”

The Minnesota Republican was recently chosen to be the third-ranking House Republican for the next Congress.

The Democrat-led House voted to remove committee assignments from two far-right Republicans last year. In a move that was also backed by some GOP legislators, Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene lost her committee assignments.

A 2021 news release from Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office described the move as being “in response to Greene’s history of supporting dangerous conspiracy theories and repeated comments promoting bigotry and violence directed against political rivals, including the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.”

Arizona GOP Rep. Paul Gosar also lost committee assignments in a floor vote that was supported by two Republicans. The action stemmed from Gosar’s social media account posting an animated video that depicted him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with a sword.

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