The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman said he won’t remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the panel over comments that have been criticized as anti-Semitic, despite Republican calls for her ouster.
“I don’t know that that would do anything except exacerbate the situation even more,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) told CNN, saying that he wasn’t even considering booting the freshman lawmaker from the committee. He said the decision would be up to House leadership, not him.
Both Democrats and Republicans have criticized Omar ― one of two Muslim women elected to Congress in November 2018 ― for remarks they call anti-Semitic. She apologized Feb. 11 for tweets that used anti-Semitic tropes. But on Sunday, she defended her comments in a bookstore last week targeting pro-Israel lawmakers and “the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
But as the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman wrote of “the dishonest smearing of Omar,” she “didn’t say or even imply anything at all about Jews. She said that she was being asked to support Israel in order to have the privilege of serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was true.”
Omar has been a strong supporter of Palestinian rights and has pushed back against the traditional backing of Israel by Democrats and Republicans. In criticizing Israel, however, she has repeatedly chosen words that some see as anti-Semitism.
Omar on Sunday tweeted: “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.”
The next day, 11 Jewish groups sent a letter to Engel and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking for Omar’s removal from the Foreign Affairs Committee.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) baselessly questioned Omar’s loyalty, asking whether she should be receiving intelligence briefings.
“These are her beliefs,” Scalise told Fox News. (As HuffPost previously reported, Scalise attended a white supremacist conference in 2002.)
House Democrats have been preparing a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. The wording doesn’t mention Omar directly, but it follows the uproar surrounding her remarks. A vote on the measure will likely be delayed until Thursday, The Hill reported.
The holdup is due to Democrats broadening the language to encompass other types of religious bigotry after criticism from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and others that little is done to condemn the anti-Muslim abuse Omar faces or hateful speech directed at other groups of people.
Omar was the target of an anti-Muslim poster outside the West Virginia House of Delegates last week falsely connecting the lawmaker to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.