In his quest for the House speaker’s gavel, Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy has pledged to remove Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar from her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee for allegedly making antisemitic comments. Jewish American groups came to Omar’s defense this week, dismissing the accusations against her and pointing out antisemitism in the GOP’s own ranks.
Meanwhile, McCarthy is apparently holding weekly strategy meetings that include Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, at least according to Greene. The MAGA sensationalist from Georgia once repeated an antisemitic conspiracy theory blaming wildfires on what are now infamously dubbed “Jewish space lasers.” Greene has faced calls for censure after indulging conspiracy theories and attention-grabbing stunts, including recent social media posts casting President Joe Biden as Adolf Hitler. Greene has also likened mask mandates and vaccines to the Holocaust.
Omar was accused by right-wing groups of antisemitism for calling attention to the human cost of U.S. wars in the Middle East and the Israeli security state’s illegal occupation of Palestine. A coalition of liberal and reform Jewish nonprofits, including Habonim Dror North America, J Street, New Israel Fund, said this week that the accusations against Omar are “false.”
“We may not agree with some of Congresswoman Omar’s opinions, but we categorically reject the suggestion that any of her policy positions or statements merit disqualification from her role on the committee,” the groups wrote in a joint statement this week. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a nonprofit news outlet, noted that the statement is “unusually combative for Jewish nonprofits” and insinuates that “McCarthy came closer to expressing antisemitism than Omar did.”
During an interview with Steve Bannon on the far right propagandists “War Room” podcast, Greene said she is regularly meeting with McCarthy and a group of Republicans called “the five families,” a reference to the East Coast mafia. Greene recently came under fire after she apparently “joked” in the same interview that the January 6 rioters would have won the day had Greene and Bannon been armed and leading the deadly charge against the Capitol.
The House voted to strip Greene of her committee assignments in 2021 for embracing dangerous conspiracy theories, leaving her fans on the extreme far right hungry for revenge. For McCarthy and the GOP, nixing committee assignments for prominent Democrats, especially Omar, a progressive from Minnesota and the first Black Muslim woman elected to Congress, is red meat for a MAGA base that regularly shares racist memes of the lawmaker on social media.
McCarthy is walking a political tight rope over various GOP factions in order to rally support for becoming speaker. The GOP leadership’s ability to hand out plum committee assignments under the incoming Republican majority is a major source of leverage. Some Republicans worry that giving Greene and other conspiracy-minded extremists highly coveted slots on a new oversight committee planned for targeting Democrats would result in a embarrassing circus and backfire, according to Insider.
The Jewish American groups suggested McCarthy is exploiting controversy over antisemitism for partisan gain. According to the statement:
Leader McCarthy’s pledge seems especially exploitative in light of the rampant promotion of antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories by him and his top deputies amid a surge in dangerous right-wing antisemitism. He posted (and later deleted) a tweet charging that George Soros and two other billionaires of Jewish descent were seeking to “buy” an election. His newly elected Whip Tom Emmer said the same people “essentially bought control of Congress.
McCarthy’s has also promised to strip Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell of their seats on the House Intelligence Committee. The two Democrat congressmen are major targets of the right-wing media and fierce critics of former President Donald Trump. These pledges are clearly motivated by partisanship, not principle, the Jewish groups said, and McCarthy’s pledge to remove Omar for voicing criticism of Israel is no different.
Any move to remove Democrats from the committee would likely come in January, according to reports.