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

A years-old promise by House Republicans to oust Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the Foreign Affairs Committee is facing headwinds as concern within the conference has made it unclear if but it is not unlikely such a motion could pass.

The debate arose after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) unilaterally removed Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) from the House Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday. That action fulfilled part of a promise he made after Democrats took the unprecedented step in the last Congress of voting to remove Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) from their committees.

The vote on Omar’s position remains on hold for an obvious reason: Democrats have yet to officially name which lawmakers will serve on the Foreign Affairs committee, preventing Republicans from formally introducing a resolution to remove Omar from office.

But the Republicans face another problem: a slim majority that only allows them to lose four votes to pass anything. That margin narrowed to three as Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) recovers at home. from a traumatic fall that left him injured.

Reps. Nancy Mace (RS.C.) and Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) have indicated they will vote against removing Omar to stay consistent with their votes against removing Greene and Gosar from their committees. leaving McCarthy just one vote to spare.

McCarthy said he wanted Omar removed from the committee because of “repeated anti-Semitic and anti-American comments,” a reference to her using an anti-Semitic trope, comparing the United States to terrorist groups, and support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which pro-Israel groups say has its roots in anti-Semitism. Omar apologized for using “anti-Semitic tropes.”

McCarthy has unilateral authority as a speaker to remove any lawmaker from a select committee, such as the Intelligence Committee. But the House on Foreign Affairs is a standing committee, and removing a member requires a vote of the full House. Although Democrats have previously condemned Omar’s comments, leaders plan to support her to try to block any efforts. get her out of committees.

To ensure they have the votes, House Republican leaders reviewed a list of controversial statements Omar has made since entering Congress in 2019 during his weekly conference meeting Wednesday morning to remind members that they were undecided.

“It was definitely a threatening message to members,” said a lawmaker in the room, who saw the presentation as a motivator to solidify 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 leaders at one point posted a February 2019 tweet from Omar in which he said, “It’s all about baby Benjamins,” a reference. a $100 bills suggesting that Israel’s allies in US politics were motivated by money rather than principle.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said Wednesday that he would vote to remove Omar from the committee after expressing ambivalence earlier in the week. While he doesn’t want to normalize the practice of kicking lawmakers out of committees, Bacon also doesn’t want to approve of Omar after Democrats ousted several Republicans from committees in 2021.

“If I use the benchmark of Speaker Pelosi, how did she do it, she gets thrown out,” Bacon said.

McCarthy made it clear to reporters on Wednesday that Omar would only be ousted from Foreign Relations, not from any other committee she might be chosen to serve on. When she was asked if there was enough support at the conference for her to deprive Omar of her only task, McCarthy said: “Look.”

In response, Omar said during a news conference on Wednesday that he hopes “Republicans have a conscience and don’t show their constituents and the American people how partisan they are, how hypocritical they are.”

Pelosi set the precedent of removing lawmakers from the opposing party from their committees, a right traditionally held for a party leader to use over his own members. In 2019, the Republican Party Steering Committee, which assigns lawmakers to committees, unanimously decided to remove the then-representative. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committees after he made repeated racist comments, a measure recommended by McCarthy.

Democrats have called McCarthy a hypocrite for supporting King’s removal, but not Greene or Gosar. Democrats also defended Omar, saying repeatedly that his comments did not amount to expressing support for violence against prominent Democrats, as Greene did, or that Gosar posted video showing the assassination of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN .Y.)

Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in removing Greene from their committees in early 2021, while only former 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 their committees, Reps. Young Kim (R-Calif.), Carlos A. Gimenez (R-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said they support the June decision. . 2021 letter sent to Pelosi to apply the same standard to Omar and would support a vote to remove her from the Foreign Relations Committee.

“I voted to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene. There is no comparison, for example, with what she said before being a member of Congress with what Omar has said, as a member of Congress, without apologizing,” Díaz-Balart said.

Republicans have defended McCarthy’s decision to remove Schiff, Swalwell and eventually Omar from specific assignments, citing the Pelosi standard. Schiff and Swalwell were removed from the Intelligence Committee after Republicans said they were concerned both California Democrats had access to classified information, blaming Schiff for polarizing the once bipartisan committee while investigating the Trump administration. McCarthy removed Swalwell citing unproven claims that a Chinese spy had extracted information from him. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing against Swalwell.

Schiff and Swalwell will continue to serve on the Judiciary Committee, and Swalwell will also serve on the Department of Homeland Security.

“I think it’s ridiculous for the speaker to kick out of the committee two good members who know a lot about the world of intelligence, while at the same time nodding George Santos and giving him two committee assignments,” said Democratic Chairman Pete Aguilar. (D-Calif.) said.

McCarthy has refused to remove his own members from committees or to seat lawmakers like Santos, who is under investigation citing his constituents sent them to serve in office.

“Do you know why I am by his side? Because his electors voted for him. I don’t have the power simply because if I don’t agree with someone or what they’ve said, I’m firing them from elected office,” he said before noting he would be fired if the House Ethics Committee finds him guilty of violating 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 never mentioned Omar’s name, which some Republicans called a dodge by the Democratic majority.

While Democrats have rebuked Omar in the past, they have often shouted hypocrisy at Republicans for attacking his Muslim heritage. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) came under fire for Islamophobic comments she made at an event in which she referenced Omar and the “Jihad Squad” while she referenced a suicide bomber.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), a staunch conservative and House institutionalist, said he would vote to remove Omar from his committee, citing his belief that her comments make her “unsuitable” to serve on Foreign Relations. . But he worries that the repeated practice could set an unfortunate precedent for the House.

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

Camila DeChalus, Theo Meyer, and Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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