Republicans oust Ilhan Omar from powerful House committee

  • In Business
  • 2023-02-02 18:56:03Z
  • By BBC
Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar
Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar  

Republicans have ousted Democrat Ilhan Omar from her committee post in a sign of escalating tensions in the US Congress.

They voted to remove Ms Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee over her past comments about Israel.

Republicans said the move sent a strong statement against antisemitism.

But Democrats and Ms Omar said it was revenge after two Republicans were ousted from committees in 2020 when Democrats held a House majority.

Ms Omar also suggested she was being removed due to her being a Muslim woman who immigrated to the US as a refugee. "Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy?" she said shortly before the vote.

Republicans secured a majority in the House of Representatives following the midterm elections in November, and members voted along party lines to remove Ms Omar on Thursday.

She is one of three high-profile Democrats to lose a committee assignment under the new House majority, which is led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Some Republicans - including Mr McCarthy - argued Ms Omar should not serve on the powerful foreign affairs committee owing to her past comments about Israel that have, at times, been criticised by members from both parties.

Ms Omar apologised in 2019 for implying money was behind support for Israel.

Members of both parties, including then-Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, condemned her comments as antisemitic as they invoked bigoted stereotypes about Jewish people using money for influence.

"Antisemitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of antisemitic tropes," Ms Omar said in a statement at the time.

On Thursday, Democrats, including Jewish members, also said Ms Omar had taken appropriate steps to educate herself about antisemitism.

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Historically, the party in power in the House rarely disciplined members of the opposition themselves, but that has begun to change, creating a new form of partisan gamesmanship that could further divide the chamber.

In 2020, Democrats removed Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from their committees due to comments and threats posted on social media directed at Democrats, including Ms Omar.

Congressman Max Miller, an Ohio Republican who introduced the resolution to formally remove Ms Omar from the committee, said her "discriminatory" comments towards Israel and tense relationship with a foreign ally disqualified her.

But Democratic Representative Kathrine Clark said ousting Ms Omar would deprive the committee of "a refugee and a survivor of war" who "knows first-hand what is at stake in its work".

Other members said the decision risked escalating partisan rancour in the House.

Ms Omar, who represents parts of Minnesota, arrived in the United States in the 1990s as a Somali refugee. In 2018, she became one of the first Muslim women elected to the US Congress.

She has received well-publicised abuse during her time in office - and supporters of former President Donald Trump have previously chanted "send her back!" at his rallies.

Before the vote on Thursday, Ms Omar said another death threat that had been sent to her office. "These threats increase whenever Republicans put a target on my back," she said.


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