House Republicans vote to kick Rep. Ilhan Omar off Foreign Affairs Committee

They said it was for antisemitic comments the Democrat apologized for in 2019.

February 2, 2023, 2:16 PM

House Republicans on Thursday voted to kick Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar off the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

They said it was because of antisemitic comments and statements on Israel she later apologized for in 2019.

The vote on the resolution was 218-211 -- with one Republican -- Rep. David Joyce of Ohio -- voting "present."

Omar defended herself in an impassioned floor speech Thursday immediately ahead of the vote, displaying a photo of her younger self on a poster board beside her.

"I am Muslim. I am an immigrant. And interestingly, from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted?" she said.

"I am an American -- an American who was sent here by her constituents to represent them in Congress, a refugee who survived the horrors of a civil war. Someone who spent her childhood in a refugee camp, someone who knows what it means to have a shot at a better life here in the United States, and someone who believes in the American dream," she said.

"There is an idea out there that I am not, that I do not have, objective decision making because of who I am, where I come from and my perspective -- but I would check that we say there is nothing objective about policy. We all inject our perspectives, our points of view, our lived experiences, and the voices of our constituents," she continued. "That's what democracy is about."

"What opinions do you have to have to be counted as American? That is what this debate is about. There is this idea that you are suspect if you are an immigrant. Or if you are from a certain part of the world, of a certain skin tone or a Muslim…" Omar said.

Rep. Ilhan Omar speaks on the House floor before the vote to remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Feb. 2, 2023, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Pool via ABC News

"I will continue to speak up because representation matters. I will continue to speak up for little kids who wonder who's speaking up for them. I will continue to speak up for families around the world towards seeking justice, whether they are displaced in refugee camps, or they are hiding under their beds -- somewhere like I was -- waiting for the bullets to stop -- because this child survivor of war would have wanted, that the nine-year-old me, would be disappointed if I didn't talk about the victims of conflict those that are experiencing unjust wars, atrocities, ethnic cleansing occupation or displacement like I did," Omar said.

The Minnesota congresswoman concluded by saying she would not let the vote silence her.

"I came to Congress to be their voice, and my leadership and voice will not be diminished," she said. "If I am not on this committee for one term, my voice will get louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world as it has been."

Her Democratic colleagues in the chamber rose and cheered.

Before Omar spoke, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said in a speech, "Don't tell me this is about consistency. This is about targeting women of color!"

Several Jewish Democrats supported Omar, including Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida, who voted against the GOP resolution, and Rep. Janice Schakowsky of Illinois, who said, "I stand before you as a proud Jew and a proud friend and colleague of Ilhan Omar."

Meanwhile, GOP members continued to condemn Omar's previous antisemitic remarks and what they said is her lack of support for Israel.

GOP Rep. Michael Guest Of Ohio said "not only do Representatives Omar's comments have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee. I hold that anyone who makes such statements has no place on serving in the Foreign Affairs Committee."

Freshman Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., said, "words matter, it leads to harm."

"The congresswoman is being held accountable for her words and her actions, and that is why I support this resolution," Lawler said.

Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York called Omar's behavior "unacceptable."

"This is about consistency and accountability. Because we should not have those views on the committee," Malliotakis said.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Rayburn Building titled "Venezuela at a Crossroads," Feb. 13, 2019, in Washington.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Earlier Thursday, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said the vote was "all about political revenge" and called the resolution written to remove Omar "phony, fake and fraudulent."

"This type of poisonous toxic double standard is going to complicate the relationship moving forward between House Democrats and help Republicans," Jeffries told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott at his weekly press conference.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had repeatedly vowed to remove Omar and two other Democrats, California Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff, once Republicans regained power.

The House Rules Committee voted along party lines on Tuesday night, 9-4, to advance a resolution to effectively block Omar from the panel -- by removing her once she is seated.

On Wednesday, the chamber voted to move forward with a vote on the resolution, which was introduced by Republican Rep. Max Miller of Ohio. It cites some of Omar's previous controversial statements to argue she doesn't have an "objective mindset."

Miller said it wasn't about a "tit-for-tat," given that Democrats and some Republicans had removed two GOP lawmakers -- Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar -- from committees in the last Congress.

After the House vote to remove Omar, McCarthy doubled down on why he said she deserved to be booted off.

“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,” he said.

ABC News' Jay O'Brien and Gabe Ferris contributed to this report.

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