The Republican-led House of Representatives voted on Thursday to pass a resolution to remove Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee.
House Republicans have argued Omar should not serve on the committee in light of past statements she has made related to Israel that in some cases been criticized by members of both parties as antisemitic. Democrats have criticized the push to oust Omar, arguing it amounts to an act of political revenge and that the Minnesota Democrat has been held accountable for her past remarks.
The action comes after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy officially denied seats on the House Intelligence Committee to Democratic Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff, the former chairman of the panel – a decision that was condemned by Democrats.
McCarthy vowed last year that if Republicans won back the House majority, he would strip Schiff, Swalwell and Omar of committee assignments, arguing that Democrats created a “new standard” when they held the majority by removing Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona from committees for violent rhetoric and posts.
House Republicans, now in the majority, have given Greene and Gosar committee assignments for the new Congress.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries on Thursday accused Republicans of “political revenge.”
He defended the move by Democrats in the previous Congress to vote Republicans off committee assignments, arguing that they incited violence against their colleagues.
“The line should be drawn when there are members of Congress who are actively threatening violence against colleagues,” Jeffries said, adding, “We take violent threats seriously because we’ve lived them.”
In 2019, Omar issued a public apology after she faced a backlash for tweets condemned on both sides of the aisle. The apology came after the Minnesota Democrat faced widespread criticism after suggesting Republican support of Israel is fueled by donations from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a prominent pro-Israel group.
There have been other incidents as well: In 2021, a group of Jewish House Democrats accused Omar of equating the US and Israel with the Taliban and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the US. In response, Omar said that she was “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries.”
Greene and Gosar, who will now have committee assignments, have also faced criticism from both sides of the aisle. Last year, Republican leaders in Congress condemned both lawmakers for speaking at a White nationalist conference.
Greene spoke at the America First Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida – an event founded by the far-right activist Nick Fuentes as an alternative to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Gosar appeared at the America First Political Action Conference via a pre-recorded video, HuffPost reported. Gosar also attended the same conference last year.
Greene defended her appearance in a lengthy statement, dismissing the blowback as “fake divisions and disingenuous allegations” and proclaiming that she won’t “cancel” other conservatives even if she finds their statements “tasteless, misguided or even repulsive at times.”
A CNN KFile review of Gosar’s events and social media posts over the years found that the lawmaker has long associations with White nationalists, a pro-Nazi blogger and far-right fringe players. A spokesperson for Gosar declined to comment on specific questions about the congressman’s associates in response to the reporting.
In 2021, Greene apologized for her “offensive” comments comparing Capitol Hill mask-wearing rules to the Holocaust after visiting the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
Omar, Schiff and Swalwell have pushed back in reaction to McCarthy’s effort to strip them of committee seats.
“Kevin McCarthy’s purely partisan moves to strip us from our committee is not only a political stunt, but also a blow to the integrity of our democratic institution and threat to our national security,” Omar said at a recent press conference where she spoke alongside Schiff and Swalwell.
Democrats had also argued the move is hypocritical by pointing to the fact that embattled GOP Rep. George Santos, who is facing mounting legal issues and growing calls to resign for extensively lying about his resume and identity, had been awarded seats on two committees.
In an abrupt change in course, however, Santos told the House GOP conference on Tuesday behind closed doors that he wants off of his two committees until his issues are resolved, three members told CNN.
McCarthy has the power to unilaterally block Schiff and Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee because it is a select committee. Ousting Omar, however, from the House Foreign Affairs Committee required a vote of the full House of Representatives.
McCarthy told CNN Tuesday evening that he had the votes to oust Omar. The assertion came after House GOP leaders worked to lock down the votes after several members of their conference had signaled resistance to the move.
One of those Republicans, Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, announced on Tuesday that she is now prepared to support a resolution to oust Omar, citing the addition of “due process language.”
“I appreciate Speaker McCarthy’s willingness to address legitimate concerns and add due process language to our resolution. Deliberation and debate are vital for our institution, not top-down approaches,” the congresswoman said in a statement.
Spartz had previously indicated that she opposed the effort to remove the three Democratic lawmakers from committees.
Last week, Spartz put out a statement that referenced how Democrats had kicked Greene and Gosar off committees. “Two wrongs do not make a right. Speaker Pelosi took unprecedented actions last Congress to remove Reps. Greene and Gosar from their committees without proper due process. Speaker McCarthy is taking unprecedented actions this Congress to deny some committee assignments to the Minority without proper due process again,” the congresswoman said at the time.
The Democrat-led House voted in 2021 to remove Greene from committee assignments in the wake of unearthed incendiary and violent past statements, including a report from CNN’s KFile that she repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress. Eleven House Republicans joined with Democrats at the time in support of the move.
The Democrat-led House also voted that year to approve a resolution that censured Gosar and stripped him of committee assignments in a rebuke to the Arizona Republican for posting a photoshopped anime video to social media showing him appearing to kill Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden. Two House Republicans voted with Democrats at the time to pass the resolution.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Thursday.