Moments before House Republicans voted to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from the House Foreign Affairs Committee over what a resolution said was a series of antisemitic remarks, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., delivered a fiery speech in support of her colleague.
“Consistency? There is nothing consistent about the Republican Party’s continued attack except for racism and incitement of violence against women of color in this body,” Ocasio-Cortez said, claiming that Omar was being targeted because she was Black and Muslim, not because of her comments.
“I had a member of the Republican Caucus threaten my life and you all, and the Republican Caucus rewarded him with one of the most prestigious committee assignments in this Congress,” Ocasio-Cortez said in reference to Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who was censured and stripped of committee assignments by Democrats and two Republicans in November 2021 after he posted an animated video depicting him attacking President Biden and killing Ocasio-Cortez.
With Republicans retaking control of the House, Gosar has since been appointed to the Oversight Committee as well as the Natural Resources Committee.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has attempted to punish Omar since early 2019 over remarks promoting cultural stereotypes of Jews that drew bipartisan criticism, and for which she has since apologized.
Thursday’s vote to remove her from the Foreign Affairs Committee went along partisan lines, with 218 Republicans voting in favor, 211 Democrats voting against and one Republican, Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio, voting present.
Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., said in remarks Thursday that “this is not about vengeance or retribution. It is about accountability,” citing his Jewish constituents.
“No one who peddles in antisemitic activity, behavior or language should have any right to serve on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” Lawler said in a floor speech prior to the vote, “which has an incredibly important role to play in partnering with our strongest ally, the state of Israel.”
A Somali refugee, Omar was one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress and has consistently asked challenging questions about American foreign policy, including U.S. support for Israel, while serving on the committee.
Like Ocasio-Cortez, Omar framed the debate in terms of ideological censorship and racism, saying prior to the vote that “this debate today, it’s about who gets to be an American, what opinions do we have to have to be counted as Americans. ... There is this idea that you are suspect if you are an immigrant, or if you are from certain parts of the world, or a certain skin tone, or a Muslim.” Omar added that her “leadership and voice will not diminish if I am not on this committee for one term.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s impassioned defense of her colleague, calling out what she said was GOP hypocrisy on antisemitism, quickly went viral across social media.
“Don’t tell me this is about a condemnation of antisemitic remarks when you have a member of the Republican Caucus who has talked about Jewish space lasers and an entire amount of tropes and also elevated her to some of the highest committee assignments of this body,” Ocasio-Cortez said in reference to an apparent conspiracy theory floated by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
Greene was removed from her committee assignments by the House in February 2021 over her embrace of bizarre conspiracy theories and endorsement of violence against Democrats, including Ocasio-Cortez. In social media posts she made prior to her election in 2020, Greene also appeared to endorse the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, promoted the idea that school shootings were false-flag events and espoused both antisemitic and Islamophobic views. Under McCarthy’s leadership, Greene was appointed last month to the Oversight and Homeland Security committees.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said Thursday morning that while Omar had made mistakes, “what’s going to take place on the floor today is not a public policy debate. It’s not about accountability. It’s about political revenge.”
During Thursday's press briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called Omar’s expulsion a “stunt.”