A group of House Republicans on Monday introduced legislation to censure Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and her closest allies in Congress ― an attempt to boost GOP claims that the Democratic Party is dangerously radical and exploit infighting among its members. And Democrats’ own choices will make the gambit harder to defeat.
The resolution from Reps. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.) would condemn Omar and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). It cites criticisms of Israel, including its recent airstrikes on Gaza ― which killed at least 248 people, including 66 children ― and says the four congresswomen “inaccurately depict the democracy of Israel as an oppressive, violent, abusive nation.”
If the resolution passed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would be forced to personally rebuke them in the reading of the legislation, even though she has already repeatedly commented on Omar’s views.
The top Republican in the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), may introduce his own parallel effort to target Omar by removing her from committees, Punchbowl News reported.
The GOP attacks are ostensibly inspired by comments Omar made last week. Speaking about the United States’ refusal to work with the International Criminal Court, Omar said there should be accountability for all allegations of crimes against humanity ― whether those are committed by widely condemned groups like Hamas and Taliban militants or by the U.S. and its partners like Israel and Afghanistan.
But the political value for Republicans in their new offensive against the congresswoman is about something else entirely: her colleagues.
Since facing accusations of anti-Semitism years ago, Omar has said she supports “freedom and security” for Israel and called the country the “historical homeland” of the Jewish people.
Conservative politicians ― led by former President Donald Trump ― and right-leaning media outlets have continued to cast Omar as hateful and misrepresent her calls for equally applying rights standards to all parties as attempts to single out Israel and Jews. Many of those attacks treat Omar as alien: a Black Muslim woman expressing sentiments that are un-American.
Prominent Democrats have repeatedly endorsed that narrative ― giving it greater legitimacy and helping Republicans smear both Omar and the Democratic Party at large. In doing so, they have ignored dozens of comments from Omar and her supporters explaining her views and condemning prejudice.
That pattern repeated itself last week. After right-wing lawmakers and pundits asserted that Omar’s remarks about International Criminal Court investigations were actually statements saying the U.S. and Israel were the equivalent of terror organizations, 12 House Democrats issued a statement saying Omar could “give cover to terrorist groups.” They requested a clarification from her.
McCarthy amplified their criticisms just a few hours later and challenged Pelosi to act against Omar.
The Minnesota congresswoman gave her colleagues the clarification they asked for.
“To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel,” Omar said in a Thursday statement. “I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
Yet Democrats continued to fuel the cycle of manufactured outrage: Not long after Omar’s press release, Pelosi and her five top deputies issued their own statement echoing criticisms of the congresswoman.
It’s now on Pelosi’s team to handle the Republican bid to make Omar the biggest political story of the week ― and avoid a national conversation about apparent Democratic anti-Semitism rather than Democratic priorities like voting access and improving infrastructure.
Democrats are offering some indications they will resist the GOP’s bait this time around.
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), who led the statement against Omar from Democrats last week, told HuffPost he will be introducing his own resolution on Wednesday to censure a Republican, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), citing her comments comparing coronavirus control efforts to Nazi tactics.
“Congresswoman Omar is a valued member of our caucus,” Pelosi said on CNN on Sunday. “She clarified, we thanked her, end of subject.”
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