Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) issued strong rebukes of the GOP after the House voted along party lines on Thursday to remove Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) from her spot on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a move that Democrats and progressives have decried as racist and Islamophobic.
“It is an outrage that every Republican voted to remove [Omar] — a third term Muslim American woman — from the Foreign Affairs committee. Our job is to unite the American people, not divide them based on their race and religion,” Sanders said on Twitter on Thursday.
“What a disgraceful day for the House,” he said.
Warren also pointed out that Omar’s removal is likely motivated by the representative’s religion and her race as a Black woman. “The House GOP just removed the only refugee and the only African-born member of Congress from the Foreign Affairs Committee. [Omar]’s voice strengthens Congress and our nation,” Warren wrote. “I know she’ll keep on using it despite this disgusting attempt to silence her.”
The statements echoed sentiments expressed by Omar herself, who has said that the reason she is being targeted is racist, Islamophobic bigotry among the GOP, which she has faced the entirety of her time serving in the House.
“Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy, or that they see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced?” Omar said on the House floor before the vote.
Lawmakers and analysts have said that removing Omar serves several purposes for the GOP. It appeases the furthest right members of their caucus, like Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia) and Lauren Boebert (Colorado), who have both lobbed virulently hateful, Islamophobic attacks against Omar in past years. It’s also an opportunity for Republicans to amplify bad faith arguments, using accusations of antisemitism as a bludgeon against the Democratic Party.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) said in a CNN interview that it is evident that Republicans are removing Omar as a cynical political game. She pointed out that GOP leaders have elevated Representatives George Santos (New York), Paul Gosar (Arizona) and Greene into top committee assignments despite their past concerning and offensive behaviors.
“These are individuals, Majorie Taylor Greene included, inciting violence against specific members in the [House] — [McCarthy] has appointed all three of them to House committees, not just one, but multiple,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Majorie Taylor Greene, who was engaging in 9/11 conspiracy theories — Kevin McCarthy appointed her to the Homeland Security Committee.”
“So there is really no consistency here and it needs to be very well known that this targeting of Ilhan Omar is because the Republican base finds it easy, the Republican base finds it politically self-rewarding, and I also believe that the Republican base seeks to remove a perspective that challenges a certain foreign policy establishment in this country,” she continued.
Indeed, as Jewish Currents editor at large Peter Beinart wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times, Omar has been a powerful voice in the Foreign Affairs Committee, bringing up many issues of inhumanity and oppression around the world when other lawmakers would not. In a 2021 hearing on China’s violent oppression of Uyghurs, for instance, Omar raised the fact that the U.S. has also committed atrocities against Uyghurs, having imprisoned Uyghur people in Guantánamo Bay in the past.
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