By Joseph Lord
House Republicans on Feb. 2 passed a resolution that would remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the chamber’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
The resolution passed along party lines, with 218 Republicans voting to remove Omar and 211 Democrats voting against the resolution. One lawmaker voted present. 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat did not vote.
Despite some pushback from GOP critics of the move, the measure easily overcame a procedural hurdle to begin debate in a 218–209 vote along party lines on Feb. 1.
However, because Democrats have not yet released their list of appointees for the committee, no further action can happen yet on the resolution. Omar has indicated that she expects to be one of her party’s appointees to the committee.
Omar has on several occasions come under fire for negative comments about Israel, which critics have described as “antisemitic.”
Because of these past comments, Republicans have long expressed sharp opposition to placing Omar on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has for some time indicated that he would not allow Omar to serve on the committee.
During a GOP leadership press conference on Jan. 31, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) announced that Republicans would remove Omar if she were appointed to the committee.
At the time of publication, those appointments have not been announced.
“We’ve all seen the quotes and things that she said over and over and over again, as a member of Congress, that would create major problems if she were on the Foreign Affairs Committee,” Scalise said. “So we would—if Democrats appointed her to the Foreign Affairs Committee, which they haven’t yet, but if they did—then, we would have to remove her as well.”
Omar told reporters on Tuesday that she is in “good standing” with members of the panel.
During a speech on the House floor, freshman Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) defended his party’s measure.
“Omar is being held accountable for her words and her actions,” Lawler said.
Democrats responded to the resolution with a series of charges.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, simply called the bill “a revenge resolution.”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) called it a distraction “from Republicans’ total inability to govern.”
At least one Democrat, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) claimed that Republicans were targeting Omar out of sheer bigotry.
“Being a smart outspoken black woman of the Muslim faith is apparently the issue,” Pocan claimed.
Omar echoed this, calling herself “a Muslim woman from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I’m being targeted?” she added.
“I am an American,” Omar said. “I am an American who was sent here by my constituents to represent them in Congress.”
Used Against Republicans
During the 117th Congress, Democrats used the same process being prepared against Omar to remove Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) from all of their committee assignments.
Near the start of the 117th Congress, the then-Democrat majority stripped Greene of all her committee assignments. Democrats cited comments the newly-elected Georgia Republican had made about the Jan. 6 Capitol breach—comments that she had apologized for and disavowed prior to being sworn-in as a lawmaker.
Gosar was removed after he posted a video to social media that Democrats claimed threatened violence.
These instances, Scalise suggested during the Jan. 31 press conference, are at the forefront of Republicans minds as they prepare to object to Omar.
“We’ve been talking to our members and pointing out a lot of issues because you know, if you look at what we were very concerned about last Congress … Democrats removing Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from all of their committees,” he said.
In comments to reporters ahead of the vote, Omar insisted that the cases were not the same.
“They Greene and Gosar threatened the lives of their colleagues. They posed danger to folks that they could serve on committees with, to the actual institution they were sworn to protect,” she said.
In comments on the House floor on Feb. 2, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) agreed.
“Greene and Gosar were not removed for their speech,” Hoyer said. “They were removed because they made threats against other members of Congress.”
“There is no equivalency here,” Hoyer added. “We believe in free speech, no matter how hateful that speech is.”
Rep. Ayanna Presley (D-Mass.), a longtime ally of the embattled Minnesota Democrat, added in a House floor speech “Ilhan Omar is right where she belongs on the foreign affairs committee.
Republican Critics Call Foul
Several Republicans had been critical of the move to strip Omar of her assignments.
Before the vote, Omar said that several Republicans had privately told her that they opposed the effort to remove her, reporting that those Republicans had called it “unjust.”
“They are trying to do whatever it is that they can within their conference to make sure there is no vote to remove me from the Foreign Affairs Committee,” Omar said.
Rep. Victoria Spratz (R-Ind.) has been one of the most outspoken GOP critics of the move, which she called a “charade.”
“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” Spartz said in a statement. “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.”
In a separate statement, delivered on the House floor, she argued much the same.
“As someone who grew up under dictatorship in the Soviet Union, I cherish these freedoms tremendously and understand how hard is to get them back when you lose them. Therefore, regardless of politics, I will vigorously defend our Constitution and our rights,” Spratz said. “We are not a kangaroo court and have proper committees, like Ethics or Judiciary, to provide proper due processes to all individuals or we can lose credibility with the American people.
“I adamantly argued for proper due processes last Congress as a member of the Judiciary Committee, so I am not planning to become a hypocrite now.”
Spratz was not the only critic.
Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last week that he thinks the committee assignments should be left to “the confines of each party” to figure out.
He added that Democrats’ use of the process against Greene and Gosar during the last Congress “creates this retaliatory issue for our conference.”
Thus, ahead of the vote, it remained unclear if McCarthy—who can only spare four defectors with his narrow majority—would have the votes to fulfill his longtime promise that he would remove Omar.
‘Rule of Law’
Spratz was ultimately brought around to supporting the move but demanded a rule change allowing a removed committee member to appeal the removal.
Spratz explained to NTD: “If we believe in the rule of law and due process, we need to have an ability, at least in some way, to challenge leadership and leadership decisions, or majority decisions, because we don’t want to be a tyranny of the majority.”
The Indiana Republican told NTD that McCarthy agreed to her demand.
She said in a separate statement, “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 rule of law, freedom of speech, and due process are fundamental to our Constitutional Republic. Our founding fathers understood that pure democracy is dangerous and can lead to the tyranny of majority, mob rule, and dictatorship.”
Spratz described the appeal process as conservative and a means to ensure that the speaker or the bare majority do not have the final say on these issues.
“As to my fellow conservatives, I think setting a precedent of allowing an appeal process for the Speaker’s and majority-party removal decisions is particularly important to freedom-loving legislators who usually are on the receiving end of issues like this.”
‘This Is Not the Same’: Scalise
During the Jan. 31 GOP leadership press conference, Scalise argued that removing Omar “is not the same [as what happened to Greene and Gosar] in a number of regards.
“No. 1, they went after Marjorie Taylor Greene for things that she had said before she was a member of Congress, that she denounced before she was a member of Congress.”
“It was very personal when they removed her from every committee,” Scalise added.
Republicans, Scalise emphasized, do not intend to go as far as Democrats did by removing certain members from all their committees.
“Even if Omar were to be removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee, she will be allowed to serve on other committees,” Scalise said. “So a lot of big differences.”
He added, “If Omar is concerned about being removed, probably be good if you would ask her why she voted to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene and Gosar from their committees, because she did vote to do that.”
Schiff and Swalwell
Omar is not the only Democrat whose committee assignments are up in the air.
On Feb. 1, Omar told reporters that she opposed barring Schiff and Swalwell from any committee.
“Unless McCarthy can say how myself, Adam Schiff, and Eric Swalwell are a danger to the institution, our colleagues, then he’s not following the example that was set by Speaker Pelosi,” Omar said.
Notably, during the 117th Congress, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took the unprecedented step of refusing then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the Jan. 6 Select Committee.
McCarthy had pegged Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) for the top spot on the committee and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to serve under him. Pelosi refused the picks, claiming that they would hurt the integrity of the investigation, and instead appointed former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as ranking member on the GOP side, as well as former Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).
The Intelligence Committee, in contrast to most House committees, is permitted to access information about classified intelligence, which most other members of Congress are not allowed to see. Thus, McCarthy has indicated that he considers the Intelligence Committee qualitatively different from any other House commission.
It is for this reason that McCarthy has said he will not allow either Schiff or Swalwell onto the committee, citing significant ethics concerns for each.
Schiff has, on a handful of occasions and particularly during his time on the now-defunct House Jan. 6 panel, doctored or tampered with evidence. The most well-known instance of this tampering came in December 2021, when Schiff presented misleadingly-edited screen caps of a text conversation between Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
During a speech on the House floor on Feb. 2, Schiff expressed opposition to the resolution against Omar, saying that while Greene and Gosar had been removed from their committees for “inciting violence” against members of Congress.
“There is nothing like that at issue here,” Schiff said.
Swalwell would pose national security concerns if he were permitted on the committee due to his well-documented past relationship with a Chinese spy, McCarthy has said.
“Speaker McCarthy has made clear where we are, whether it’s for Adam Schiff and Swalwell on Intelligence, as well as Omar for Foreign Affairs,” Scalise said on Jan. 31.
Because Omar has not yet been officially appointed to the committee, no action on the resolution can yet move forward, leaving it unclear when lawmakers will debate and attempt to pass the measure.
NTD reporter Melina Wisecup contributed to this report.