Ilhan Omar’s removal from panel was ‘stupidest vote’, says Republican – report

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Discomfort at the House Republican majority voting to remove Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar from the powerful foreign affairs committee is bipartisan – but also deeper than first impressions suggest, according to a new report.

Following the highly controversial move on Thursday, Ken Buck, a committee member and Republican congressman from Colorado, was heard calling the action the “stupidest vote in the world”, congressional newspaper Roll Call reported.

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He was speaking in an elevator on Capitol Hill, accompanied by Idaho Republican Mike Simpson, who reportedly agreed with Buck’s assessment and also indicated that the ousting might be counterproductive for the GOP as it made Omar a “martyr”, the outlet continued, adding that the two representatives then asked others in the elevator not to relay their remarks to House Republican leadership.

Meanwhile, on the floor of the House, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, literally bouncing on her feet with rage, accused the GOP leadership of having no greater motive than “targeting women of color in the United States”.

Ocasio-Cortez and Omar are two of the progressive Democratic group in the House known as the Squad.

“There is nothing consistent with the Republican party’s continued attack, except for the racism and incitement of violence against women of color in this body. This is about targeting women of color in the United States of America,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a fiery speech in the House.

Squad member and Missouri congresswoman Cori Bush called the action to kick Omar, who is a Muslim, off the key committee, offensive.

“Republicans are waging a blatantly Islamophobic and racist attack against Congresswoman Omar. I have said it before, I will say it again: The white supremacy happening is unbelievable. This is despicable,” Bush said.

The House voted along party lines to oust Omar although Ohio Republican David Joyce appeared to signal unease with the decision by voting simply present, rather than in favor.

Omar struck a defiant note in a speech shortly before the votes were counted, accusing Republicans of trying to silence her because she is a Muslim immigrant, and promising to continue speaking out.

“Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy? Or that they see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced? Frankly, it is expected because when you push power, power pushes back,” Omar said, adding: “My leadership and voice will not be diminished.”

The Republican House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, had made removing Omar one of his first tasks after being elected speaker last month, following the GOP winning a slim House majority in last November’s midterm elections. A small group of Republicans had initially objected to the effort, but still voted with the party.

The resolution to oust Omar condemned previous comments she made about Israel that drew accusations by Republicans and some Democrats of antisemitism.

Omar has apologized and acknowledged her remarks played on antisemitic tropes.

Republican leaders had for weeks worked to assuage concerns among some party members that ousting Omar was no more than an act of retribution for Democrats removing Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona from committees in the last Congress.

The two rightwing extremists were expelled for aggressive and threatening behaviour including Gosar’s dissemination of a video which showed him attacking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York progressive, and menacing Joe Biden. Gosar was also censured.