McCarthy pushes to exclude Rep. Omar from House committee over 'antisemitic comments'

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The House GOP has not expressed similar concern about antisemitism among its own caucus members.

House Republicans are planning a floor vote to block Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from continuing to serve on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Punchbowl News reported on Monday. Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has vowed to keep Omar off the panel, citing comments she made in 2019 criticizing Israel and his own support for its government.

McCarthy has done nothing to punish members of his own caucus for antisemitic and white nationalist comments.

McCarthy told Punchbowl News on Jan. 10 that he would use his power as speaker to remove California Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence and that the GOP majority would hold a vote to remove Omar from Foreign Affairs. "I made all [three] cases before. It's not like it's anything new," he said, saying that his predecessor as speaker had set a precedent. "Remember, this is what Nancy Pelosi, this is the type of Congress she wanted to have."

Under Pelosi's leadership, Democrats and a few Republicans in the last Congress voted to remove Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) from all of their committee assignments, Greene for spreading antisemitic, Islamophobic, racist, and QAnon-linked conspiracy theories and backing a call on social media for Pelosi to be executed, and Gosar for posting a video on social media showing an animated version of himself physically attacking President Joe Biden and assassinating Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

McCarthy opposed the actions against both, calling the removal of Greene an "unprecedented step to further their partisan power grab regarding the committee assignments of the other party" and the censure and removal of Gosar an "abuse of power."

After Republicans won a narrow majority in November, McCarthy tweeted: "Last year, I promised that when I became Speaker, I would remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee based on her repeated anti-semitic and anti-American remarks. I'm keeping that promise." In an attached video, he pointed to comments Omar made in February 2019 critical of Israel's influence in the United States and suggesting that McCarthy's support for the country was "all about the Benjamins baby." McCarthy later called these "antisemitic comments."

Omar apologized at the time for those and other tweets about Israel, acknowledging the "painful history of anti-Semitic tropes."

In January 2022, McCarthy told right-wing media outlet Breitbart:

The Democrats have created a new thing where they're picking and choosing who can be on committee. Never in the history have you had the majority tell the minority who could be on committee, but this new standard, which these Democrats have voted for — if Eric Swalwell cannot get a security clearance in the private sector, there's no reason why he should be given one to be on Intel or Homeland Security, so that will not — he will not be serving. … Ilhan Omar will not be serving on Foreign Affairs. … This is a new level of what the Democrats have gone. You look at Adam Schiff. He should not be serving on Intel.

On Jan. 12, 2023, McCarthy said at a press conference: "You will find the fundamental difference of me being a speaker and Nancy Pelosi: The other side will get to name their members on the committee. It won't be handpicked by me and denying the Democrats their voice." After a reporter pointed out that this contradicted his stated plans to remove the three Democrats from their committees, McCarthy responded with what Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler termed "specious attacks" worthy of "four Pinocchios," accusing Schiff of lying to the public and claiming that he heard negative information about Swalwell in a classified FBI briefing.

While House Republicans now plan to punish Omar for what she said four years ago, they have all countenanced antisemitic comments by other Republicans.

They elected McCarthy minority leader of the 116th and 117th Congresses and voted him speaker of the current one even after he faced widespread criticism for an October 2018 tweet suggesting prominent Jewish donors George Soros and Michael Bloomberg, along with Tom Steyer, whose father was Jewish and is often misidentified as Jewish, were trying to buy the election.

They unanimously selected Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) to be House majority leader, even though he acknowledged in 2014 that he had spoken at the 2002 convention of a white supremacist organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Scalise has claimed that he did not know what the organization stood for.

They appointed Republican Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert to the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, along with Greene and Gosar, even though she reportedly asked a group of Jewish visitors to the Capitol in January 2022 if they were spies doing "reconnaissance."

Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) offered only a partial apology in January 2021 for comments praising Adolf Hitler's strategy of indoctrinating young people to become Nazis. "Hitler was right on one thing. He said, 'Whoever has the youth has the future.'" She was appointed to the House Agriculture Committee.

And despite falsely claiming to be a "proud American Jew" and the grandson of Holocaust survivors — and allegedly using a fake Jewish-sounding name to dupe Jewish donors on GoFundMe — Rep. George Santos (R-NY) was appointed to both the Science, Space and Technology and the Small Business committees.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.