McCarthy faces a narrow path trying to oust Omar from the committee


House Republicans’ years-long promise to kick Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the Foreign Affairs Committee faces headwinds as conference concerns don’t tell if, but not unlikely, such a motion could pass.

The debate emerged after Chairman Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) unilaterally removed Representatives Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) from the House Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday. The action fulfilled part of a promise he made after Democrats took the unprecedented step last Congress of removing Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul A. Gosar (R- Arizona) of their committees.

The vote on Omar’s position remains suspended for one obvious reason: Democrats have yet to formally name which lawmakers will sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee, preventing Republicans from formally introducing a resolution to impeach Omar.

But the Republicans are faced with another problem: a narrow majority that allows them to lose only four votes to pass anything. That margin fell to three as Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) recovers at home of a traumatic fall during which he injured himself.

Reps. Nancy Mace (RS.C.) and Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) signaled they would vote against removing Omar to stay consistent with their votes against ousting Greene and Gosar from their committees, leaving McCarthy with only one vote to spare.

McCarthy said he wanted to remove Omar from the committee because of “repeated anti-Semitic and anti-American remarks,” a reference to her using an anti-Semitic trope and comparing the actions of the United States to those of terrorist groupswhich she later clarified by saying, “I in no way equated terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.

Omar apologized, saying on Twitter that “Anti-Semitism is realand expressing gratitude to “Jewish allies and colleagues who educate me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”

McCarthy has the unilateral power as chairman to remove any lawmaker from a select committee, such as the intelligence committee. But House Foreign Affairs is a standing committee and the removal of a member from it requires a vote of the full House. Although Democrats have previously condemned Omar’s remarks, leaders plan to back her in a bid to block any effort to remove her from the committees.

To make sure they have the votes, House GOP leaders at their weekly conference meeting Wednesday morning went through a list of controversial statements Omar has made since entering Congress in 2019 to remind members who were on the fence.

“It was definitely a threatening message to members,” said a lawmaker in the room, who saw the presentation as motivation to build support for the eventual vote.

According to four people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private discussion, the executives at one point flashed a February 2019 tweet from Omar in which she said, “It’s all about the baby Benjamins” – a reference to $100 bills that were seen as suggesting that Israel’s allies in American politics were driven by money rather than principle. Republicans have also expressed concern about his support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which pro-Israel groups say is rooted in anti-Semitism.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said Wednesday he would vote to remove Omar from the committee after expressing ambivalence earlier in the week. Bacons said while he doesn’t want to normalize the practice of kicking lawmakers off committees, he doesn’t want to give Omar a pass after Democrats barred several Republicans from serving on committees in 2021.

“If I use Speaker Pelosi’s reference, how she did it, she (Omar) gets kicked out,” Bacon said.

McCarthy made it clear to reporters on Wednesday that Omar would be barred from Foreign Affairs, not any other committee she might be chosen to serve on. When asked if there was enough support at his conference to strip Omar of his sole mission, McCarthy replied, “You look.”

In response, Omar told a press conference on Wednesday that she hoped “Republicans will come clean and not prove to their constituents and to the American people how partisan they are, how hypocritical they are.”

Republicans have consistently targeted Omar, and she has faced an increase in death threats and other threats of violence since becoming a public figure. She is often assigned to security by the United States Capitol Police based on credible death threats, which in one case resulted in a man receiving three years probation for his actions.

Pelosi set the precedent of removing lawmakers from opposing parties from committees, a right traditionally reserved for a party leader to use on his own members. In 2019, the GOP Steering Committee, which assigns lawmakers to committees, unanimously decided to remove the then-Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committees after doing several times racist comments; this move was recommended by McCarthy.

Democrats called McCarthy a hypocrite for backing King’s impeachment but not Greene or Gosar. Democrats also defended Omar, repeatedly saying his remarks did not amount to expressing support for violence against prominent Democrats, as Greene did, or Gosar’s posting of a video illustrating the murder of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.)

Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in removing Greene from its committees in early 2021, when only then-Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) voted to remove Gosar. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) voted present at the time, citing his service on the ethics committee.

Although they voted to remove Greene from its committees, Reps. Young Kim (R-Calif.), Carlos A. Gimenez (R-Fla.), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), said they were standing in the June 2021 letter they sent to Pelosi to apply the same standard to Omar and would support a vote to remove her from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I voted for the impeachment of Marjorie Taylor Greene. There is no comparison with, for example, what she said before being a member of Congress with what Omar said, as a member of Congress, shamelessly,” Diaz-Balart said.

Republicans defended McCarthy’s decision to remove Schiff, Swalwell and, possibly, Omar from specific assignments, citing Pelosi’s standard. Schiff and Swalwell were removed from the intelligence committee after Republicans claimed they feared California Democrats had access to classified information, accusing Schiff of polarizing the once bipartisan committee as it investigated the Trump administration . McCarthy removed Swalwell, citing unproven claims that a Chinese spy extracted information from him. There was no evidence of wrongdoing against Swalwell.

Schiff and Swalwell will still serve on the Judiciary Committee, with Swalwell also serving on the Homeland Security Committee.

“I think it’s ridiculous that the speaker is kicking off the committee two good members who know a lot about the intelligence world while sitting down George Santos and giving him two assignments on the committee,” Rep. Pete said. Aguilar (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

McCarthy pushed back on removing his own members from committees or against the Santos seat, which is under investigation, citing that their constituents sent them to sit.

“Do you know why I’m by his side? Because his constituents voted for him. I don’t have the power just because if I don’t agree with someone or what they said, I remove them from elected office,” he said before noting that he would impeach him if the House Ethics Committee found him guilty of breaking the law.

Both Republicans and Democrats condemned Omar early in his congressional career for the “all about the Benjamins” tweet. In March 2019, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments but did not name Omar, which some Republicans have called a cop-out by the Democratic majority.

While Democrats have chastised Omar in the past, they have often cried hypocrisy at Republicans for attacking her for her Muslim heritage. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) has come under fire for Islamophobic remarks she made at an event where she referenced Omar and the ‘Jihad squad’ while referencing a suicide bomber . Boebert has not apologized to Omar and faced no repercussions from GOP leaders, even after Omar revealed the comments led to an influx of death threats against her rooted in the Islamophobia.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), a staunch conservative and institutionalist in the House, said he would vote to remove Omar from his committee, citing his belief that his remarks make her “unfit” to serve. in Foreign Affairs. But he expressed fear of setting an unfortunate precedent for the House.

“Overall, I think we have to be careful not to create an institutional practice here of quid pro quo or ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander; they did that, so we can do that’ — it’s not good practice for the institution, and in general I would be opposed to something like that,” he said.

Camila DeChalus and Theodoric Meyer contributed to this report.


A previous version of this article included a photo caption stating that Rep. Ilhan Omar was blocked from the House Intelligence Committee. She is potentially barred from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The article has been updated.