US House votes to remove 1st Muslim woman from committee

WASHINGTON : The US House of Representatives voted along party lines Thursday to remove one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress from her seat on the influential Foreign Affairs Committee.

The 218-211 vote saw all Democrats vote in opposition to removing Ilhan Omar from the panel. Nearly all of the chamber’s 222 Republicans voted to strip her of her assignment. One Republican voted present while three others did not cast ballots.

“It is no accident that members of the Republican Party accused the first Black President, Barack Obama, of being a secret Muslim. It is no accident that former President Donald Trump led a birther movement that falsely claimed he was born in Kenya. Because to them, falsely labeling the first and only Black president of the United States a Muslim and an African immigrant somehow made him less American,” Omar said on the House floor ahead of the vote.

“Well, I am a Muslim. I am an immigrant. And, interestingly, from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I am a target? Is anyone surprised I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy?” she asked rhetorically.

The Republican effort to oust Omar comes as the party’s congressional leadership seeks revenge for the removal of far-right Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from committees when Democrats controlled the chamber. Greene and Gosar were removed for incendiary remarks and apparent endorsement of violence against Democrats.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy vowed to retaliate if Republicans won the chamber in November’s primaries, which they did, albeit with a narrower-than-expected margin. McCarthy previously removed Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee.

Omar faced charges of anti-Semitism in 2019 for remarks she made in which she said some lawmakers’ support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins, baby,” a reference to $100 bills. At the time, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and all Democrats condemned the remarks before Omar apologized.

The Republican’s successful maneuver to remove Omar cited those remarks specifically, and alleged Omar has an anti-Israel bias.

“I’ve sat there and heard the representative actually spew anti-American rhetoric as well. I’ve been in that committee room where the representative equates Israel and the United States to Hamas and the Taliban, absolutely unacceptable for a member of that committee,” said Republican Representative Nicole Malliotakis.

The White House condemned the Republican action, saying Omar has apologized for her past comments “and has been vocal about condemning anti-Semitism as well as affirming our strong alliance and important partner partnership with Israel.”

“It’s a political stunt much like House Republicans’ unjust removal of other leading Democrats from key committees in recent weeks,” said spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre. “It is a disservice to the American people. — AA

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