WASHINGTON — House Republicans narrowly voted Thursday to oust Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from the Foreign Affairs Committee, a move that follows Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s removal of Reps. Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the Intelligence Committee last month.
McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, had the unilateral authority to keep Schiff, D-Burbank, and Swalwell, D-Dublin, off the intelligence panel, which is a “select” committee. But a majority floor vote was required to boot Omar from foreign affairs.
The resolution passed Thursday afternoon in a 218-211 party-line vote, with one member, Republican Rep. David Joyce of Ohio, voting present.
Omar, a Black Muslim, said she was targeted because of her race and religion. She insisted she will not be silenced.
“I didn’t come to Congress to be silent,” she said. “I came to be their voice, and my leadership and voice will not be diminished if I am not on this committee for one term.”
McCarthy said Omar was removed for antisemitic comments she made in 2019 and other controversial foreign policy statements she’s made as a member of Congress. Democratic leaders also condemned her remarks at the time, but took no action against her after she apologized.
In a news conference after the vote, McCarthy noted that Omar, Schiff and Swalwell weren’t removed from all of their committees like some of his Republican colleagues were in the last Congress, and he pushed back on the notion that Thursday’s resolution was a “tit for tat” with House Democrats.
“We’re not removing her from other committees,” McCarthy said. “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.”
Omar’s removal completes McCarthy’s pledge to kick all three Democrats off their top panels after the Democratic majority held bipartisan votes in the last Congress to remove Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., from their committees for appearing to incite violence.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told reporters Thursday that the vote was an act of political revenge.
“Ilhan Omar has apologized,” Jeffries said. “She has indicated that she’ll learn from her mistakes (and) is working to build bridges … with the Jewish community, including leaders right here in the United States Congress.”
In an interview, Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the panel will lose Omar’s valuable perspective as a Muslim woman who was born in Somalia and spent several years of her childhood in a refugee camp.
Meeks lamented that McCarthy has at the same time given far-right Republicans and some election deniers committee assignments.
Omar tweeted Wednesday evening that the move against her had spurred death threats. In an 18-second voicemail, a man threatens to “put a bullet in your f— head” and tells her to “get the f— out of my country.”
“These threats increase whenever Republicans put a target on my back,” Omar wrote.
Omar’s removal from the committee caps McCarthy’s first month as speaker.
Though McCarthy struggled last month to persuade his caucus to hand him the speaker’s gavel, his ability to fulfill his promise to remove the Democrats should help him win over skeptics in his party.
“He knew what he had to do to become speaker and satisfy all the different pent-up anger that so many Republicans had to what’s happened over the last four years,” said Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., who chairs the Republican Study Committee. “A lot of people in the press thought that he’d given up the farm, and he really just took the House back to where it was.”