Republicans vote to oust Rep. Ilhan Omar from House committee
House Republicans on Thursday voted to remove progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from her long-held seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, delivering on one of the earliest promises made by now-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) after Republicans gained control of the chamber in November.
The final vote of 218 to 211 was entirely along party lines, with just one Republican, Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio, voting present. Speaking before the vote on Wednesday, Omar laid bare what she saw as the stakes of her ouster and the broader questions it raises. "Who gets to be an American? What opinions do you have to have to be counted as American?" she asked her colleagues. "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."
Despite the GOP House majority, Omar's ouster was no sure thing for Republicans, several of whom had previously expressed concern over the precedent Thursday's vote would set. One of those holdouts, Indiana Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz, joined the larger group this week only after securing a concession from McCarthy that would allow Omar to appeal her removal to the House Ethics Committee.
"I appreciate Speaker McCarthy's willingness to address legitimate concerns and add due process language to our resolution," Spartz said in a statement ahead of Thursday's vote. "Deliberation and debate are vital for our institution, not top-down approaches."
Omar, one of the first two Muslim American women to serve in Congress, has long been targeted by conservatives, who have described her past criticisms of Israel as antisemitic and disqualifying for office. In 2019, Omar publicly apologized for previous statements that "unknowingly" invoked antisemitic stereotypes.
"Antisemitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of antisemitic tropes," she said in her statement. "My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize."
On Wednesday evening, Omar shared a voicemail she had received this week, explaining that "threats increase whenever Republicans put a target on my back."
The vote to remove Omar from her committee assignment comes just one week after McCarthy blocked Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) from seats on the House Intelligence Committee, where each had served for years.