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McCarthy May Not Have the Votes to Unseat Omar From Committees

Three Republicans have indicated they are against ousting Omar from committees — potentially enough to sink the vote.

Rep. Ilhan Omar departs a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on January 26, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-California) plot to appease the most extremist lawmakers in his caucus by removing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) from her committee assignment is teetering on the edge of failure as more Republicans voice their reluctance to go along with the plan.

On Friday, Republican Rep. Ken Buck (Colorado) said that he is opposed to removing Omar, joining fellow Republican representatives Nancy Mace (South Carolina) and Victoria Spartz (Indiana). With McCarthy’s voting margin down to only three votes, with one Florida Republican on medical leave, it’s possible that their three votes will be enough to block McCarthy’s plan.

Democrats officially placed Omar in the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday, but McCarthy has vowed to remove her from the committee, with a vote on the matter expected this week. Though McCarthy can unilaterally remove people from select committees, like he did with California Representatives Adam Schiff (D) and Eric Swalwell (D), who were removed from the House Intelligence Committee, removing someone from a standing committee like Foreign Affairs requires a majority vote from the full House.

The issue puts McCarthy’s slim margin on full display, especially as a couple of other Republicans, Representatives David Valadao (California) and Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania), also appear to be unsure on how they will vote. Democrats are likely to stand behind Omar and vote “no,” per Axios.

Omar, one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, has repeatedly said that the attacks against her are politically motivated and fueled by Islamophobia. On Friday, she pointed out the hypocrisy of Republicans accusing her of antisemitism to remove her from committees while refusing to take action against real threats of violence from their own caucus.

“McCarthy did nothing when [Rep. Marjorie] Taylor Greene said Muslims don’t belong in our government. He did nothing when Boebert said I was a terrorist. He did nothing when MTG wanted [Rep. Rashida Tlaib] and I kicked out of Congress unless we swore in on a Christian Bible. Spare me the GOP hypocrisy,” Omar wrote on Twitter.

“[Donald] Trump dined with Nazis, said ‘Jews have to get their act together,’ and said to a group of Jewish leaders, ‘You’re brutal killers. Not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me; you have no choice.’ He never apologized,” she continued. “McCarthy is following a well worn playbook: pit minority groups against each other in order to further marginalize them. It has been used by demagogues throughout history and it won’t work.”

Republicans have falsely claimed that Omar is antisemitic in order to justify removing her from committees, ignoring statements from Jewish groups who say that it is actually Republicans, not Omar, who are condoning and perpetuating antisemitism.

In past years, Omar has spoken out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, pointing out the influence of lobbying groups like AIPAC. Though human rights advocates and Jewish groups have said that opposing Zionism is not inherently antisemitic, pro-Israeli occupation groups like AIPAC have worked to equate supporting Palestinians to antisemitism — a narrative that Republicans and some mainstream Democrats have latched onto as an easy attack against progressives.

These accusations of antisemitism come from figures who themselves perpetuate antisemitic hatred, as Jewish advocates have pointed out. By accusing people like Omar of antisemitism and comparing efforts to remove her from committees to Democrats’ blocking of people like Greene, Republicans are drawing false equivalencies between Omar’s actions and those of the far right while drawing attention away from the party’s ties to virulent antisemites.

“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,” a coalition of Jewish groups wrote in a statement last month.

“He posted (and later deleted) a tweet charging that George Soros and two other billionaires of Jewish descent were seeking to ‘buy’ an election,” the groups continued. “His newly elected Whip Tom Emmer said the same people ‘essentially bought control of Congress.’ Meanwhile, Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik has promoted the deadly antisemitic ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory.”

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