Washington — The House on Thursday voted to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee over her past controversial comments about Israel, ousting the Minnesota Democrat in a show of force by the newly empowered Republican majority.
The vote on the resolution to remove Omar from the panel was 218 to 211 and fell strictly along party lines, with one GOP member voting “present.”
The resolution to remove Omar cited tweets and comments she made in 2019 and 2021 in which she invoked antisemitic tropes, including criticism of pro-Israel politicians as being “all about the Benjamins,” and compared the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban. The remarks drew criticism from fellow Democrats as well as Republicans.
“Representative Omar, by her own words, has disqualified herself from serving on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, a panel that is viewed by nations around the world as speaking for Congress on matters of international importance and national security,” the resolution said, adding that her comments “have brought dishonor to the House of Representatives.”
Republicans have pledged to take action against Omar and other Democrats since 2021, when Democrats controlled the House and voted to strip far-right GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from their committee assignments over their own controversial comments. McCarthy restored both members to committee spots after he became speaker last month.
Democrats decried the move as a politically motivated stunt, and pointed to McCarthy’s decision to seat GOP Rep. George Santos to two committees despite Santos’ admission that he fabricated large swaths of his biography. Santos told his colleagues this week that he would not serve on committees for the time being.
Several GOP holdouts had expressed due process concerns about the Omar resolution but ultimately supported it after the addition of a provision that establishes an appeals process for those removed from committees. GOP Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, one of those with reservations who in the end voted for the resolution, said she secured a commitment from McCarthy to support working with Democrats to reform the process for removal, with the goal of avoiding an endless tit-for-tat when control of the House flips.
“Everybody recognizes on both sides that you don’t want to keep going back and forth,” Mace told reporters on Capitol Hill. “So if this is going to be the standard, let’s create the standard together going forward and actually have a process, because we have a process for censorship, we have a process for expelling a member from Congress, but we don’t have a process in the rules or in the Ethics Committee to remove a member from your committees.”
The speaker said Wednesday that there are “many committees” Omar can serve on, but the Foreign Affairs Committee, given the sensitivity of its work, isn’t one of them.
“I’m not saying she can’t have committees,” McCarthy said after a meeting at the White House. “But to sit on Foreign Affairs, I worry about … what the rest of the world looks at, every single word that is said there. I’m worried about predetermining what she believes in that situation. She admitted herself, she didn’t even know referring to financial money, dollars, was a trope for those who happen to be Jewish.”
Asked about her past comments on CNN on Sunday, Omar said she didn’t realize at the time they were “trafficking in antisemitism” and called McCarthy’s effort to remove her from the committee “politically motivated.”
“Yes, I might have used words at the time that I didn’t understand were trafficking in antisemitism,” Omar said Sunday. “When that was brought to my attention, I apologized. I owned up to it. That’s the kind of person that I am. And I continue to work with my colleagues and my community to fight against antisemitism.”
During the vote Thursday, Omar apparently wore a bracelet with the words, “God bless whoever hating on me,” and tweeted out a photo.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Thursday he will appoint Omar to the House Budget Committee.
Last month, McCarthy also blocked Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee, which he could do unilaterally, since the Intelligence panel is a select committee. Removing Omar required a vote of the full House.
Ellis Kim contributed reporting.