House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) vowed on Wednesday to keep his promise to bar Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) from serving on committees in the Republican-controlled House — a move that she says can be chalked up to pure Islamophobia.
McCarthy confirmed in an interview earlier this week that he plans to bar Omar from serving on House committees and that Representatives Adam Schiff (D-California) and Eric Swalwell (D-California) would also be blocked from committee assignments.
Omar, who is Muslim, has been the target of Islamophobic hate from Republicans her entire time in Congress, and she says that this move is not an exception.
“I do not actually think that he has a reason outside of me being Muslim and thinking I should not be,” Omar told HuffPost on Wednesday. “If you look at the comments from Republicans, it’s precisely for only that reason.”
Indeed, Republicans have given reasons for McCarthy to block Schiff and Swalwell from their expected placements on the House Intelligence Committee, however underhanded such a move may be.
Swalwell has provoked particular ire from Republicans in past years, especially for his role as an impeachment manager in Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, and Republicans have continually amplified an unproven conspiracy theory that Swalwell has colluded with a foreign spy, which McCarthy has referenced.
McCarthy said this week that Schiff has “lied too many times” to be on the committee. He did not cite the supposed lies, though Schiff has had a major target on his back for being a member of the January 6 committee.
McCarthy gave no specific reason for Omar’s removal from committees in the interview, by Punchbowl News, suggesting that Omar is correct in her analysis that Republicans are targeting her solely for her religious beliefs. McCarthy has accused Omar of antisemitism over her comments denouncing Israeli apartheid, but Jewish groups say that it is McCarthy and GOP lawmakers who perpetuate antisemitism, not Omar.
Notably, McCarthy doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally bar Omar from serving on committees. While he alone can decide to block Schiff and Swalwell from committees due to the Intelligence Committee’s status as a “select” committee, kicking Omar off of her expected seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee would require a majority vote from the House.
“As crude and as cynical as it is for the nativist factions in our government, targeting Muslims is reliably good politics,” Sumayyah Waheed, senior policy counsel for Muslim Advocates, told HuffPost. “By stripping Rep. Omar of her committees, McCarthy kills two birds with one stone: He attempts to silence an effective, principled voice on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and he stokes the ugly culture of anti-Muslim hate for cheap political points.”
Omar has faced Islamophobic attacks from all sectors of the Republican Party during her time in office, with Republican members of Congress relentlessly spewing vitriolic hatred toward her in particular. Last year, for instance, Rep. Greg Murphy (R-North Carolina) tweeted an Islamophobic attack on Omar, invoking the 9/11 attacks completely unprompted as Omar tweeted about a Capitol Police officer being killed due to the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Then, months later, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) posted a video in which she likened Omar to a terrorist. While Boebert faced no punishment from the GOP for that comment, Omar received a deluge of death threats shortly after the video was posted — a wave that came on top of the hundreds of death threats that Omar has been subject to throughout her time in office, often specifically motivated by Islamophobic hate.
Later, when the House passed a bill introduced by Omar to combat Islamophobia abroad, in part as a response to Boebert’s attack, Republicans uniformly voted against it.
Republicans have not just failed to condemn these Islamophobic attacks — they actively fuel them. When former President Donald Trump was in office, for instance, he tweeted a video of Omar speaking at an event held by a Muslim civil rights organization that was edited to include footage of the 9/11 attacks; he has also repeatedly lied that Omar supports Al Qaeda, an odious claim backed by zero evidence.
Omar emphasized the Republican Party’s complicity in perpetuating Islamophobia after Boebert’s comments. “The Republican Party leadership has done nothing to condemn and hold their own members accountable for repeated instances of anti-Muslim hate and harassment. This is not about one hateful statement or one politician; it is about a party that has mainstreamed bigotry and hatred,” she said.
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