Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) fired back at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday after he renewed a threat to remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee for what he characterized as “repeated antisemitic and anti-American remarks.”
McCarthy, who is angling to become House speaker in January, repeated the vow multiple times over the weekend, including during a television interview and during an appearance before a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas. Republicans are poised to claim a narrow House majority in the next Congress.
“McCarthy’s effort to repeatedly single me out for scorn and hatred — including threatening to strip me from my committee — does nothing to address the issues our constituents deal with,” Omar said in a statement.
“What it does is gin up fear and hate against Somali-Americans and anyone who shares my identity, and further divide us along racial and ethnic lines,” she added. “It is a continuation of a sustained campaign against Muslim and African voices, people his party have been trying to ban since Donald Trump first ran for office.”
If McCarthy is elected speaker, he would not have unilateral power to remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee. It would require a vote of the full House.
McCarthy tweeted out a clip of his appearance in Las Vegas on Saturday night, in which he said he was “keeping that promise” to remove Omar.
“I remember what she said about Israel,” McCarthy told the crowd. “I remember what she said about the relationship. I remember it so much that I promised you last year that as speaker, she would no longer be on Foreign Affairs. I’m keeping that promise.”
Omar has been accused of antisemitic comments on a number of occasions.
In early 2019, as a freshman, she apologized for suggesting that Israel’s allies in U.S. politics were motivated by money rather than principle.
A tweet in which she said “it’s all about the Benjamins baby” — a reference to $100 bills — drew immediate denunciations from Republicans and fellow Democrats, especially Jewish members of Congress.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic leadership called Omar’s “use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters” deeply offensive and insisted that she apologize.
“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” Omar said at the time. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. … This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
On Monday, Omar accused the GOP of hypocrisy for allowing antisemitism in its ranks, noting that McCarthy accused wealthy Jewish liberals of trying to “buy” elections in 2018. And Islamophobia and xenophobia from some of the country’s most influential Republicans, Omar said, has put the life and safety of one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress in jeopardy on numerous occasions.
“Whether it is Marjorie Taylor Greene holding a gun next to my head in campaign ads or Donald Trump threatening to ‘send me back’ to my country (despite the fact that I have been a proud citizen of the United States for more than 20 years), this constant stream of hate has led to hundreds of death threats and credible plots against me and my family,” she said in her statement.
“At the same time, they have openly tolerated antisemitism, anti-Muslim hate and racism in their own party,” Omar added.
In February 2021, the House voted along party lines to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments as a rebuke for espousing extremist beliefs.
Greene had been an open adherent of the QAnon ideology, a sprawling and violent web of false claims that played a role in inspiring the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. In addition, she had made comments on social media suggesting that some mass shootings were staged by supporters of gun control, that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by government forces and that a Jewish cabal had sparked a deadly wildfire with a space beam.
McCarthy has indicated that Greene will get her preferred committee assignments when the GOP is the majority in January.
In October, Trump attacked American Jews in a post on his Truth Social platform, saying Jews in the United States must “get their act together” and show more appreciation for the state of Israel “before it is too late.”
American Jews have long been accused of holding secret loyalty to Israel rather than the United States, and Trump’s post leaned on that antisemitic trope, suggesting that by virtue of their religion, American Jews should show more appreciation for Israel.
Trump also complained in the post that “no president” had done more for Israel than he had but that Christian evangelicals are “far more appreciative of this than the people of the Jewish faith, especially those living in the U.S.”