Republicans oust Ilhan Omar from high-profile U.S. House committee
WASHINGTON, Feb 2 (Reuters) – US House Republicans on Thursday ousted Democrat Ilhan Omar from a high-profile committee over comments widely condemned as anti-Semitic, two years after Democrats removed two Republicans from committee duties.
The deeply divided House of Representatives voted 218 to 211 to remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee, with Republicans citing the 2019 remarks she later apologized for. One Republican voted “present.”
Omar, who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia, is the only African-born member of Congress and one of the few Muslim women in the House of Representatives. She was to become the top Democrat on the foreign affairs body’s Africa subcommittee.
Republicans, who won a narrow majority in the House of Representatives in November’s election after years in the minority, said they wanted third-term House Representative Omar over remarks that included a 2019 tweet that read: ” It’s all about Benjamin’s baby,” suggesting that Israel’s supporters in US politics were motivated by money rather than principle.
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The $100 bill features Benjamin Franklin, whose signature on the 1776 Declaration of Independence and the 1787 US Constitution earned him the reputation of a Founding Father.
During the debate, Republican Mike Lawler said, “Words matter, rhetoric matters. It causes harm. The congresswoman will be held accountable for her words and her actions.”
Omar and other Democrats said such comments were made years ago and that Omar deleted the posts and apologized at the time.
Just before the House of Representatives expelled her from the committee, a defiant Omar said, “My leadership and voice will not be diminished by not being on this committee…my voice will grow louder and stronger.”
Omar has said in the past that US forces and those of other nations should be subject to the same standards of accountability when their actions injure or kill civilians.
The ouster, led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, was seen by Democrats as revenge for their 2021 vote to remove Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from their committee duties after inflammatory comments.
Gosar had posted a video on social media showing him killing another member of the House of Representatives, Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
McCarthy has given committee jobs to both Greene and Gosar, as well as George Santos, a newly elected representative who has admitted to fabricating much of his resume, though Santos has temporarily stepped down from those jobs while he worked on questions about his ethics to clarify.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat, told reporters ahead of the vote that Democrats had condemned Omar’s “Benjamin’s” remark.
“There was accountability. Ilhan Omar has apologized. She has indicated that she will “learn from her mistakes” and “build bridges” with the Jewish community. “This is not about accountability. It’s about political revenge.”
McCarthy previously opposed assigning Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Both played an important role in the impeachment of former Republican President Donald Trump.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan; Editing by Howard Goller
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