Some People Did ‘Something About Ilhan Omar’s Committee Assignment’
The House of Representatives voted Thursday to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the sensitive House Foreign Affairs Committee, citing her four-year-long history of incendiary remarks downplaying Islamic terrorism while equating the U.S. and Israel with Hamas and the Taliban.
The Republican-controlled chamber stripped Omar of this assignment by a 218-211 party line vote. The rest of her committee assignments remain intact. One Republican, David Joyce of Ohio, voted present.
“Representative Omar’s comments have brought dishonor to the House of Representatives,” says the resolution (H.R. 76), authored Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio), who is Jewish. His four-page resolution traces Omar’s plethora of controversial statements, mostly revolving around Jewish people and the state of Israel.
- In 2019, Omar suggested Republicans support the nation of Israel to curry favor with wealthy Jewish donors. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar tweeted, referencing a popular song lyric about $100 dollar bills. Her remarks also seemingly accused Jewish members of Congress of dual loyalty;
- In a speech that March before the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Omar described the 9/11 attacks perpetrated by al-Qaeda, which killed 2,977 American residents, by saying, “Some people did something.” (“Today, some people will do something to Ilhan Omar’s committee assignment,” quipped New York Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney on Thursday.);
- In June 2021, Omar badgered Secretary of State Antony Blinken, stating, “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.” At the time, key House Democrats denounced those comments but took no substantive action; and
- In a separate event not specifically cited by the resolution, Omar tweeted in 2012, before entering Congress, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Omar subsequently defended the remarks.
Such “reckless statements” have dire “implications in the real world, especially in the Middle East,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) told “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” shortly after Thursday’s vote. “I think she could be on other committees, but not on Foreign Affairs.” Perkins agreed, “It should have been done a long time ago.”
Only 27% of Americans said Omar should be able to serve on any congressional committee in an Economist/YouGov poll taken in mid-January.
Omar’s rhetoric has triggered bipartisan backlash in the past. In March 2019, then-Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), said, “Her comments were outrageous and deeply hurtful” and “have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee or the House of Representatives.” He asked that she apologize. Engel who is Jewish, lost his 2020 primary to far-Left Democrat Jamaal Bowman, a critic of Israel who openly identifies as gay.
Democrats stood united behind Omar during House debate this week, lashing out emotionally at the GOP for denying her the Foreign Affairs seat. Democrats howled “Nooo!” during the original voice vote on the resolution. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) gesticulated wildly as she asserted the vote came as part of the Republican Party’s “consistent” and “continued attack” of “racism and incitement of violence against women of color in this body.” She accused the GOP of “targeting women of color in the United States of America” and engaging in “racism against Muslim Americans.” Muslims belong to a religion, not a race.
AOC was joined by fellow members of the far-Left Squad, each one shouting as they deliberately exceeded their allotted speaking time. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said Omar’s removal embodied another offense the United States of America committed against Omar, who fled to the U.S. for refuge from her native Somalia in 1995. “I’m so sorry, Sis, that our country is failing you today through this chamber. You belong on that committee!” screamed Tlaib, her voice choked with tears. “This was the first time that I’ve cried on the floor,” admitted Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas).
Many Democrats, including Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), intimated that House Republicans punished only Omar because of “the way that she looks” and “her religious practices.” But that implication angered others of Omar’s faith. “Ilhan Omar getting kicked out of Foreign Affairs Committee has nothing to do with the fact that she is Muslim. It has to do with her policies,” commented NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom. “As a Muslim, I feel nothing but love and respect from the Republican Party.”
AOC also criticized the GOP for denying Omar the right to share her “important perspective on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” since Omar, a Somali-born Muslim, is “the only hijab [wearing] woman in the United States Congress. … That perspective is critical in terms of American foreign policy.”
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre also claimed Omar — as well as Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell (both D-Calif.), whom Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) recently removed from the House Intelligence Committee — brought “a lot to the table” in their sensitive committees. But McCarthy said Omar’s blasé reactions to anti-American terrorism “puts America in jeopardy.”
Omar — who voted for to remove two Republican congressmen from all committee assignments in the last Congress — called her one-committee ouster “dangerous.” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said he will appoint Omar to the House Budget Committee.
A few commentators were less than enthused about the parliamentary pugilism. “Congress is just political theater. Republicans themselves approved Ilhan Omar’s election to the Foreign Affairs Committee just yesterday in a unanimous consent on the House floor,” said former Rep. Justin Amash, who has strong libertarian leanings, Thursday. “In other words, they put her on the committee only so they could pass a resolution to vote her off.”
Expelling a member of Congress from any or all committee assignments — where much of the real work of Congress takes place — used to be restricted to the most egregious offenses or criminal actions. The two parties generally agreed that voters should hold politicians accountable every two years in elections. It had been nearly a century since the House stripped a member of all committee assignments before Congress meted out that treatment to Reps. Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) and William Jefferson (D-La.) for pending or active criminal indictments in 2001 and 2006, respectively. In 2018, Reps. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) lost their committee assignments over corruption charges.
The standard fell in 2019, when Kevin McCarthy kicked Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) off all his committee assignments after reading a New York Times quotation that King contends was misreported. Democrats soon capitalized on the lower threshold.
In 2021, the Democrat-controlled House voted nearly along party lines to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from all committee assignments over comments she made before her election. “Every single Democrat voted to remove Marjorie Greene on something she said before she ever came to Congress, so they wanted to override what the American people in her district decided” in an election, said McCarthy. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), whose social media account shared a peculiar video portraying Gosar as an anime character attacking Ocasio-Cortez, lost his seat the same year. Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also blocked McCarthy’s choices to sit on the select committee investigating the January 6 riot. The decision significantly hampered the Republicans’ effectiveness. President Woodrow Wilson observed, “Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work.”
Yet Pelosi sheltered Omar from the consequences of her numerous bracing statements, claiming that Omar had misspoken, because she “has a different experience in the use of words.” Rather than condemn Omar by name over her statements, in March 2019 the House passed a resolution blasting “white supremacists” for “targeting traditionally persecuted peoples, including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others.” Its only reference to anti-Christian discrimination was an historical reference to President John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism.
In addition to the one-committee removals of Schiff, Swalwell, and Omar, the House Ethics Committee is investigating Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), the freshman congressman and former drag queen who told a plethora of lies before his election last November.
Removing congressmen from committee assignments will become the province of a new investigative committee of their colleagues. To secure the votes of Reps. Ken Buck (R-Col.), Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), and Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), Kevin McCarthy agreed that he and Jeffries will appoint a bipartisan committee to draw up a legislative code of conduct. He mentioned Buck and Mace as potential members of the committee.
“Moving forward, every single member of Congress has a responsibility as to how they carry themselves” and to know they can face “due process in a bipartisan way,” said McCarthy.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.