Kevin McCarthy wants to ban Ilhan Omar from her House committee to make GOP Bigots happy
The GOP especially hates strong Black women
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy repeatedly promised GOP voters during the 2022 campaign that if the Republicans regain the House, he would remove Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar, Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from their respective House committees. In all three cases, the removal of these Democrats was solely to score political points with the GOP base.
On Tuesday, McCarthy made good on two thirds of that promise by removing Schiff and Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee as promised. (The Speaker has the power to do that unilaterally.) There was no good faith reason for this. The truth is Schiff and Swalwell were both vocal critics of Trump and served as House impeachment managers where they prosecuted Trump. Schiff noted that very point at a press conference Wednesday, stating about McCarthy that, "The cardinal sin appears to be that I led the impeachment of his master in Mar-a-Lago." Swalwell echoed that sentiment at Wednesday’s press conference, noting his removal by McCarthy was "purely about political vengeance."
But the specific reason McCarthy wants to remove Omar is different—although with the same goal of exciting the bigots that make up a large swath of the GOP base. Rep. Omar is a Black, Muslim immigrant woman. In other words, she so much of what the GOP base hates rolled into one.
After all, this is the same Omar who Donald Trump repeatedly demonized with dangerous lies that led to death threats against her. Add to that, Trump supporters—at his urging--gleefully chanted at his July 2019 rally to “send her back”—as in sending a Black person back to Africa.
McCarthy would of course deny that is the reason, instead serving up the cover story that he’s planning to remove Omar the House Foreign Affairs Committee--where she has served since 2019--for her past “antisemitic comments.” In 2019, Omar did wrongly traffic in anti-Semitic tropes but she did “unequivocally apologize” for at that time, stating, that she her intention was “never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.”
Undermining McCarthy’s purported reason to remove Omar from her committee is the December statement by a coalition of Jewish groups--including J Street--in support of the first hijab wearing member of Congress. These Jewish leaders wrote, “We oppose Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s pledge to strip Representative Ilhan Omar of her House Foreign Affairs Committee seat based on false accusations that she is antisemitic or anti-Israel.” The Jewish groups even slammed McCarthy for employing anti-Semitic tropes in the past with his “tweet charging that George Soros and two other billionaires of Jewish descent were seeking to “buy” an election.”
If Omar’s past use of anti-Semitic tropes was truly the reason McCarthy wanted to “cancel” her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, then why last week did he reward well documented bigot Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene with committee assignments. Greene has trafficked in anti-Semitic hate in the past and just last February, Greene spoke at white nationalist conference organized by well-known Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes. She was even denounced by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
As a reminder, Greene had been stripped of her committee assignments in February 2021 in a bipartisan House vote as punishment for her laundry list of bigoted comments, indicating support for violence against Democratic officials on social media and denying 9/11 happened. But now after Greene voted 15 times for McCarthy to be Speaker, he’s not troubled with her anti-Semitism, white nationalism, anti-Muslim hate, palling around with Holocaust deniers and support of political violence.
McCarthy and the GOP House leadership last week also rewarded Rep. Paul Gosar with committee assignments. Gosar, too, had been stripped of his committees in a bipartisan House vote in 2021 for sharing on social media an anime video in which he was depicted as literally murdering Democratic member of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—another go to target for GOP politicians. Apparently, to McCarthy, violence against women of color is acceptable but a strong Black woman like Omar must be silenced.
Omar responded to McCarthy’s renewed pledge to strip her of her position on the House Foreign Affairs committee by telling Huffpost: “I do not actually think that he has a reason outside of me being Muslim.”
As a fellow Muslim, Omar’s words ring 100% true because for years I’ve covered how the GOP has weaponized anti-Muslim hate for political gain. In 2012, then presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain peddled lies that American Muslims wanted to impose Islamic law in the United States. (Ironic given that the GOP is now gleefully imposing their religious beliefs as law to oppress women by ending their reproductive freedom. The Taliban should be suing the GOP for trademark infringement!)
But the 2016 GOP presidential campaign took ginning up hate of Muslim to new levels given candidates saw how the GOP base loved it. For example, when then presidential candidate Ben Carson declared in September 2015, that a Muslim should not be permitted to serve as President of the United States, he saw a massive fundraising spike from GOP voters and began gaining in the polls on then frontrunner Trump.
Trump responded to Carson’s bump in the polls by candidly noting, “He’s been getting a lot of ink on the Muslims…I guess people look at that and they probably like it.” Unsurprisingly, Trump then began to demonize Muslims with comments soon after, such as vowing to “strongly consider” closing American mosques to lying that Muslims in New Jersey cheered 9/11. This built to Trump’s December 2015 infamous proclamation calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Polls at the time showed that two thirds of GOP voters supported Trump’s call to ban anyone who was Muslim from entering the country.
As President, Trump continued serving up anti- Muslim hate knowing the GOP base would eat it up, including sharing on social media two videos made by anti-Muslim group intended to stoke hate versus Muslims. Trump also repeatedly smeared Omar with irresponsible lies that she was pro-terrorism and during the closing weeks of his 2020 campaign he again attacked her to cheers from his crowds.
McCarthy knows all of this. He saw how well anti-Muslim hate plays with the GOP base. Now add to that the fact that Omar is a Black woman and an immigrant. McCarthy knows that nothing could make the MAGA wing of the GOP happier than removing Omar from her committee.
While McCarthy was able to block Schiff and Swalwell on his own because of the unique nature of the Intelligence committee, House rules require a majority of House members to vote to remove Omar from her committee. The hope is that Republican members of Congress will say no to McCarthy’s despicable ploy of employing bigotry to make himself more popular with a swath of the GOP base. But tragically when it comes to the today’s GOP, it’s unlikely we will see Republican House members do the right thing when it comes to standing up to hate. After all, they get that is what makes their base happy.
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