Rep. Ilhan Omar speaks on the House floor

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speaks on the House floor on February 2, 2023.

(Photo: C-SPAN/Screengrab)

'I Didn't Come to Congress to Be Silent,' Says Omar as GOP Removes Her From Foreign Affairs Panel

"Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy? Frankly, it is expected, because when you push power, power pushes back," Rep. Ilhan Omar said.

House Republicans on Thursday voted to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the chamber's foreign affairs committee, a step that prompted fury from Democratic lawmakers who called the GOP's resolution an act of "unbelievable bigotry."

Speaking for herself in floor remarks ahead of the vote, Omar (D-Minn.)—a vocal defender of global human rights and trenchant critic of U.S. foreign policy—said that "this debate today is about who gets to be an American."

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

"Is anyone surprised I'm being targeted?" Omar asked. "Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy? Frankly, it is expected, because when you push power, power pushes back."

The congresswoman ended her speech on a defiant note, declaring, "I didn't come to Congress to be silent... My leadership and voice will not diminish if I am not on this committee for one term."

Thursday's vote came after the handful of Republicans who had previously expressed opposition to removing Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee flipped their votes to yes. One Republican, Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio, voted present.

Every House Democrat who voted opposed the GOP measure.

In the debate that preceded passage of the resolution, Democratic lawmakers rallied to Omar's defense, spotlighting the GOP's association with and embrace of neo-Nazis and condemning the resolution as a racist stunt veiled as a rebuke of antisemitism.

"Republicans are waging a blatantly Islamophobic and racist attack on Congresswoman Omar," said Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.). "This is despicable."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who is Jewish, said in her impassioned remarks that she doesn't "need any of you to defend me from antisemitism," referring to the Republican side of the aisle.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a top ally of Omar's, dismissed the GOP's rationale for the resolution and characterized the vote as another act of "racism and incitement of violence against women of color in this body."

"Don't tell me that this is about a condemnation of antisemitic remarks when you have a member of the Republican caucus who has talked about Jewish space lasers," Ocasio-Cortez said, a reference to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), for her part, cast the vote as an attempt to "distract the American people" from the GOP's lack of a serious legislative agenda.

Passage of the Republican resolution also drew outrage from advocacy groups.

In a statement, Wa’el Alzayat, CEO of the Muslim-American advocacy group Emgage Action, called the House's party-line vote "unacceptable" and said Republican attacks on Omar "are based in Islamophobia and bigotry."

"As the first Black, Muslim, refugee woman elected to Congress, Rep. Omar would have been an asset to continue to serve on the foreign affairs committee and its subpanel overseeing Africa," said Alzayat. "We need diverse voices when crafting impactful foreign policies and we should not cancel those voices because of partisan reasons."

Bend the Arc, a Jewish-American organization, tweeted that "this isn't about antisemitism—it's a cynical, partisan move."

"It's pure hypocrisy from Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who just gave committee posts back to Reps. Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene," the group added.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Rep. Nancy Mace voted present on the resolution.

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