Republicans cannot afford defections because they hold such a tenuous majority in the House. However, the first real test of McCarthy’s ability to control his caucus may be about to end disastrously because three House Republicans have already broken ranks and are refusing to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, despite her long history of anti-Semitism.
It would always be the responsibility of the GOP to hold Omar accountable for her anti-Semitism, but Democratic leaders never did. So far, Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), and Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) are joining with Democrats to oppose Omar’s removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and it’s not clear if more will join them.
“Two wrongs do not make a right. Speaker Pelosi took unprecedented actions last Congress to remove Reps. Greene and Gosar from their committees without due process,” Spartz said. “Speaker McCarthy is taking unprecedented actions this Congress to deny some committee assignments to the minority without proper due process again.”
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But if Omar were kicked out, she would only be held to the same standard as Republicans have shown a willingness to hold for their own party members. In 2019, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was kicked out of his committees because of things he allegedly said in an interview with The New York Times.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King reportedly said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” King disputed the New York Times account at the time and still does. Yet, the incident likely ended his political career because he lost his bid for reelection in 2020 in the GOP primary.
But Omar’s anti-Semitism is a matter of public record that justifies her removal from the committee.
In 2012, Omar said, “Israel has hypnotized the world.” In 2019, Omar infamously tweeted that U.S. support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby,” which was widely interpreted as anti-Semitic. Omar did offer a rather insincere apology for her statements, but hopes that the controversy surrounding her would fade away were lost when she managed to put her anti-Semitic foot in her mouth again. Rather than hold Omar accountable, Nancy Pelosi actually defended Omar’s anti-Semitism, claiming Omar “has a different experience in the use of words.”
“In my lifetime I cannot think of any other politician who presents a bigger threat to the alliance between the US and Israel and to America’s Jews,” New York native and activist Joe Diamond told the Jerusalem Post back in 2019. “This woman is an ardent anti-Semite and she doesn’t even try to hide it.”
The same year, the State of Israel barred her from entering the country.
Omar has never stopped making anti-Semitic comments, either. In 2021, she equated the U.S. and Israel with Hamas and the Taliban, tweeting: “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. I asked [Secretary of State Antony Blinken] where people are supposed to go for justice.”
Despite the long list of anti-Semitic remarks from Omar, she insists that opposition to her serving on the committee is because she’s Muslim. “These people are OK with Islamophobia,” Omar said. “They’re OK with trafficking in their own ways in anti-Semitism. They are not OK with having a Muslim have a voice on that committee.”
That cracks are already forming in the GOP House majority is concerning. When members of the Republican Party are unwilling to hold Omar to the same standard they held former Rep. Steve King, which ultimately ended his career, then it seems like there’s little hope in believing that they’ll be able to stand up for what’s right under pressure.