February 3

By Kaia Hubbard

House Republicans capped a busy week on Thursday with a vote to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee, as they celebrate their new majority with a lengthy to-do list.

The Minnesota lawmaker is the third Democrat to be denied by House Republicans from a committee seat, after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy vowed to do so during the runup to the new Congress. Democrats have decried the moves as “political revenge” after they removed Republicans from committees over violent rhetoric when they held the majority.

House Republicans argued that previous statements from Omar related to Israel that have been condemned by members of both parties as antisemitic make her unfit to serve on the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries called the move from Republicans to oust Omar, along with Rep. Adam Schiff of California and Rep. Eric Swalwell of California from committees earlier this month, a “poisonous, toxic double standard.”

“Why haven’t House Republican leaders denounced any of the things that have been said by their members?” Jeffries asked during a press conference ahead of the vote Thursday. “There’s been no accountability for their members,” he added, pointing to comments made by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Rep. Cory Mills of Florida.

McCarthy defended the move after the vote on Thursday, telling reporters that while Democrats in the last Congress removed the Republican members from all committees, that’s not the case in the new GOP House majority.

“We’re not removing her from other committees, we just do not believe when it comes to Foreign Affairs, especially the responsibility of that position around the world with the comments that you make, she shouldn’t serve there,” McCarthy said. “If it was tit-for-tat, we would have picked people, took them off all committees and said nothing about it – we don’t believe in that.”

During debate over the resolution to oust Omar on Thursday, where lawmakers at times yelled or shed tears, Omar compared the situation to the suggestion by political opponents that former President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. and claims of his being Muslim, which she said attempted to make the first Black president appear “less American.”

“I am Muslim. I am an immigrant, and interestingly, from Africa,” Omar said Thursday. “Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted?”

The vote represented one of the first tests of the House GOP’s whipping power, as a handful of lawmakers earlier this week had said they would not vote in favor of removing Omar. With such a narrow majority, just a few lawmakers have the power to derail a vote. But on Thursday, nearly every Republican voted to remove Omar from the committee, with one member voting present.

The move came after Rep. George Santos, the embattled New York Republican, earlier this week said he would step down from his seat on two committees, assignments that some lawmakers had cited as further evidence of a double standard within the GOP due to Santos’ fabrication of elements of his background. In a sudden about face, Santos said he would voluntarily remove himself from the committees after a meeting with McCarthy, although the speaker told reporters on Wednesday that Santos’ decision was not connected to the move to oust Omar.

Meanwhile, the House GOP has been busy this week, kicking into gear a number of its legislative and investigative priorities – many of which zero in on the Biden administration and its policies.

House Republicans passed a handful of pandemic-related bills this week, including a measure to end the COVID-19 public health emergency, despite the announcement one day earlier that President Joe Biden would end the emergency declarations in May.

On Wednesday, Republicans also kicked off a couple of their investigations into the Biden administration, one looking into pandemic spending and another on “Biden’s Border Crisis” that began setting the stage for a possible impeachment of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.