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Rep. Ilhan Omar appears at a press conference

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) attends a news conference on Capitol Hill on November 30, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Ilhan Omar Warns 'Next Coup Not Only Possible; It Has Already Begun'

"The coup attempt on January 6th was a warning for what's to come if we don't act," said the Minnesota Democrat.

Jake Johnson

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar on Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol with a dire warning to her fellow lawmakers and the nation: The next right-wing coup attempt "is not only possible; it has already begun."

With state-level GOP lawmakers moving to suppress the vote nationwide and insurrection-complicit Republicans still in positions of power in the U.S. Congress, Omar said in a statement that "the coup attempt on January 6th was a warning for what's to come if we don't act."

"As we speak, Donald Trump's allies in statehouses across the country are seeking to erect barriers to voting."

"As we speak, Donald Trump's allies in statehouses across the country are seeking to erect barriers to voting—largely affecting low-income people, people of color, and seniors," said Omar, the whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "If that's not enough, they are stripping power from nonpartisan election officials and rewriting state laws to seize partisan control over election certification."

Last year, according to a recent analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 19 Republican-led states passed 34 laws restricting ballot access—a "tidal wave" of voter suppression that's expected to intensify in 2022. A recent report by a coalition of watchdog groups added the additional warning that state-level Republicans are pursuing a number of anti-democratic tactics "beyond proposing or passing bills."

Only immediate and bold action from Congress—including, at the very least, abolition of the 60-vote Senate filibuster and swift passage of voting rights legislation—will be enough to prevent the former president and his supporters from succeeding in their next attempt to subvert the democratic process and seize control of the federal government, Omar argued.

"To stop the next coup, we must reinvigorate the democratic experience," she said. "That requires... passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and strengthening election laws around the country to prevent the next coup. But it also requires reforming our institutions so that they are once again responsive to the core demands of our constituents. That requires abolishing fundamentally antidemocratic elements of our system like the Senate filibuster and the Electoral College, and it requires major investments in childcare, education, health, and climate like the Build Back Better Act."

"I know personally what happens when a government fails, civil strife takes hold, and people are displaced," said Omar, a Somali refugee. "And I know that coup attempts are rarely one-time affairs."

The Minnesota Democrat's warning came as President Joe Biden delivered a speech at the Capitol blasting Trump for attempting to "prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol."

"This anniversary calls not only for commemoration, but also for action—urgently."

The president also noted that "right now, in state after state, new laws are being written not to protect the vote but to deny it; not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it."

Democratic leaders in the House, meanwhile, have "planned a full day of commemorative activities" for the January 6 anniversary, "including testimonials from lawmakers, commentary from historians, and a prayer vigil," the Washington Post reported.

But lofty rhetoric and symbolic commemorations of the deadly Capitol assault won't change the fact that congressional Democrats are running out of time to thwart the GOP's sweeping attacks on the franchise ahead of the crucial 2022 midterms, in which Republicans are well-positioned to gerrymander their way back to control of the House of Representatives.

In the coming days, Senate Democrats are expected to try once more to approve voting rights legislation. But as long as the 60-vote filibuster rule remains intact thanks to the handful of Democratic senators who still support it, the upper chamber's Republican minority will continue to have veto power.

"This anniversary calls not only for commemoration, but also for action—urgently," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement Thursday. "If Congress fails to pass legislation to secure the right to vote and protect Americans' democratic freedoms, we invite these attacks to continue."

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