Ilhan Omar Ousted From Serving on Foreign Affairs Committee
On February 2, 2023, the House of Representatives, which is controlled by a Republican majority, voted to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from the Foreign Affairs Committee. This comes after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) promised to remove Omar from the committee before the 2022 midterm elections.
House Republicans questioned Omar’s ability to be unbiased when addressing problems with the Foreign Affairs Committee, which investigates U.S. foreign policy. Republicans especially questioned comments which were deemed anti-semitic made by the representative and how that would impact her perspective on policy pertaining to the Israeli government. In 2012, Omar posted on Twitter, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
Then again in 2019, Omar posted on Twitter, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” when referring to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is a lobbying group that focuses on advocating for pro-Israel policies to the United States legislator. Omar was perceived as perpetuating the stereotype that Jewish people utilize their money to buy influence over others for their own gain.
Rep. Max Miller (R-OH) introduced the resolution to remove Omar and expressed, “[She] cannot be an objective contributor to the work of the committee, and she has brought dishonor to the House of Representatives”.
House Democrats believed the Republican representatives had ulterior motives and wanted to restrict a Muslim immigrant woman's voice from the committee. The most vocal defenders of Omar were the ‘squad,’ a group consisting of progressive House Democrats.
The ‘squad’ pointed out that the House Republicans were biased by removing Omar because she is a woman of color. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) speech on the floor’s vote stated, “There is nothing consistent with the Republican Party’s continued attack, except for the racism and incitement of violence against women of color in this body”.
AOC also called out the hypocrisy of the GOP with Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who demonstrated a bias towards women of color by posting an animated video that depicts him murdering her, and how the GOP never acknowledged Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) anti-Semitic comments.
Ocasio-Cortez stated, “I had a member of the Republican caucus threaten my life, and you all and the Republican caucus rewarded him with one of the most prestigious committee assignments in this Congress…Don’t tell me this is about a condemnation of antisemitic remarks when you have a member of the Republican caucus who talked about Jewish space lasers … and also elevated her to some of the highest committee assignments in this body.”
Omar’s speech before the vote expressed how her identity is the reason for the GOP removing her, alleging they do not believe someone with her background should be making decisions on American foreign policy. In the conclusion of her speech, she stated, “Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy? Or that they see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced”.
The resolution passed with 218 voting in favor while 211 opposed.
After the vote, Ocasio-Cortez went onto CNN to reiterate how the GOP did not punish Greene for her anti-semitic comments. The media appearance caused a heated exchange between both representatives on Twitter, with Greene equating Ocasio-Cortez to a teenage girl running her mouth. Ocasio-Cortez then fired back, saying Greene was an inadequate representative.
Omar also went onto CNN and expressed that she was not aware such stereotypes about Jewish people existed and could see how her comments were offensive. Omar expressed, “I might've used words at the time that I didn't understand were trafficking in anti-Semitism. When that was brought to my attention, I apologized, I owned up to it. That's the kind of person that I am”.
When questioned, Greene’s anti-semitic remarks and Representative George Santos (R-NY), who lied about having Jewish ancestry, did not endure the backlash from the GOP for their anti-Semitic remarks. Omar responded, “They’re OK with trafficking in their own ways in antisemitism. They are not OK with having a Muslim have a voice on that committee”.
Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) critiqued the decision to remove Omar in front of reporters, expressing that he only sees it as political revenge instead of genuine concern about her ability to be unbiased. He also spoke about how Democrats have already condemned Omar four years ago for her comments.