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McCarthy faces a narrow path to expel Omar from the committee

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The long-standing pledge by House Republicans to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the Foreign Affairs Committee has met with headwinds as concerns within the conference have made it unclear whether, but not unlikely, such a motion could pass.

The debate arose after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) unilaterally removed Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) from the House Select Committee on Intelligence Tuesday. That action fulfilled part of a promise he made after Democrats took the unprecedented step in last Congress to vote to remove Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) from their committees. to delete.

The vote on Omar’s position remains suspended for an obvious reason: Democrats have yet to officially declare which lawmakers will sit on the State Committee, leaving Republicans unable to formally introduce a resolution to remove Omar.

But the Republicans have another problem: a slim majority that allows them to lose just four votes to get anything. That margin has dropped to three as Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) recovering at home from a traumatic fall that left him injured.

Representatives Nancy Mace (RS.C.) and Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) have indicated that they will vote against removing Omar in order to remain consistent with their votes against removing Greene and Gosar from their committees, leaving McCarthy with only one vote.

McCarthy said he wanted Omar removed from the committee because of “repeated anti-Semitic and anti-American comments,” a reference to she used an anti-Semitic trope, to which she compared the United States terrorist groups, and support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which pro-Israel groups say is rooted in anti-Semitism. Omar has apologized for using “anti-Semitic tropes.”

McCarthy has the unilateral power as speaker to remove any legislator from a select committee, such as the Intelligence Committee. But the House Foreign Affairs is a standing committee, and removing a member from it requires a vote of the full House. While Democrats have previously condemned Omar’s comments, leaders intend to stand by her to try and block any attempt to remove her from commissions.

To make sure they have the votes, House GOP leaders went through a list of the controversial statements Omar has made since entering Congress in 2019 at their weekly conference meeting Wednesday morning to remind members that they should fence stood.

“It was definitely a threatening message to members,” said one lawmaker in the room, who saw the presentation as a motivator to bolster support for the eventual vote.

According to four people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation, leaders at one point flashed a February 2019 tweet from Omar in which she said, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby — a reference to $100 bills seen as suggesting that Israel’s allies in American politics were motivated more by money than principle.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said Wednesday he would vote to remove Omar from the committee after expressing his ambivalence earlier this week. While he doesn’t want to normalize the practice of kicking lawmakers off committees, Bacon also doesn’t want to give Omar a pass after Democrats banned several Republicans from committees in 2021.

“If I use Speaker Pelosi’s yardstick, how she did, she gets kicked off,” Bacon said.

McCarthy made it clear to reporters on Wednesday that Omar would only be kicked off the State Department, not any other committee she could serve on. Asked if there was enough support in his conference to strip Omar of her sole assignment, McCarthy said, “Look.”

In response, Omar said at a press conference Wednesday that she hopes “Republicans will have a conscience and not prove to their constituents and the American people how much partisan hacks they are, how much hypocrisy they have.”

Pelosi set the precedent by removing opposing legislators from their committees, a right traditionally reserved for a party leader to use over his own members. In 2019, the GOP Steering Committee, which assigns legislators to committees, unanimously decided to remove the then-representative. Steve King (R-Iowa) out of his commissions after repeating racial slurs, a move recommended by McCarthy.

Democrats have called McCarthy a hypocrite for supporting King’s removal, but not Greene or Gosar. Democrats also defended Omar, saying repeatedly that her comments are not the same as expressing support for violence against prominent Democrats, as Greene did, or Gosar posting a video depicting the killing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) is pictured.

Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in removing Greene from her committees in early 2021 former Representatives Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) voted to remove Gosar. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) voted present at the time, citing his service on the ethics committee.

Although they voted to remove Greene from her committees, Representatives Young Kim (R-Calif.), Carlos A. Gimenez (R-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said they sent a 2021 letter to Pelosi to apply the same standard to Omar and would support a vote to remove her from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I voted to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene. For example, there is no comparison to what she said before she was a member of Congress, to what Omar has said unashamedly as a member of Congress,” Diaz-Balart said.

Republicans have defended McCarthy’s decision to remove Schiff, Swalwell, and eventually Omar from specific assignments, citing Pelosi’s default. Schiff and Swalwell were removed from the intelligence committee after Republicans claimed concerns that both California Democrats had access to classified information, blaming Schiff for polarizing the once bipartisan committee in investigating the Trump administration. McCarthy removed Swalwell citing unsubstantiated claims that a Chinese spy extracted information from him. There’s no evidence of wrongdoing against Swalwell.

Schiff and Swalwell will still serve on the Judiciary Committee, while Swalwell will also serve on Homeland Security.

“I think it’s ridiculous that the speaker would kick two good members who know a lot about the intelligence community from the committee, while at the same time seat George Santos and give him two committee assignments,” said Democratic Chairman Pete Aguilar (D-Calif. ) said.

McCarthy opposed removing his own members from committees or putting legislators like Santos under scrutiny for alleging that their constituents sent them to serve in office.

‘Do you know why I’m with him? Because his voters voted for him. I don’t have the power simply because if I don’t agree with anyone or what they said, I remove them from elected office,” he said before noting that he would remove him if the House Ethics Committee finds him guilty to breaking the law.

Republicans and Democrats both condemned Omar early in her congressional career for the “all about the Benjamins” tweet. In March 2019, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiment, but never mentioned the name of Omar, whom some Republicans called a Democratic-majority breakout.

While Democrats have rebuked Omar in the past, they have often cried at Republicans for attacking her Muslim heritage. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) drew criticism for Islamophobic remarks she made at an event where she referred to Omar and “the Jihad Squad” while referring to a suicide bomber.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), a staunch House conservative and institutionalist, said he would vote to remove Omar from her committee, citing his belief that her comments make her “unfit” to serve on State Department . But he worries that the repeated practice could set an unfortunate precedent for the House.

“On the bigger picture, I think we have to be careful not to create an institutional practice here of quid pro quo or ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the goose’, they did this, so we can do this — that’s not good custom for the institution, and generally I would be against something like that,” he said.

Camila DeChalus, Theo Meyer and Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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