In the U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar has been a provocative figure, particularly for many in the Jewish community. She is vocal in her hostility toward Israel. And her comments about Jews have been either remarkably tone-deaf or outright antisemitic. She is one of the leaders of the squad of progressive, outspoken, media-savvy members of Congress who have been glorified by many in the left flank of the Democratic Party and their supporters, and vilified by just about everyone else.
So, just as former Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi moved to penalize similarly offensive members of the Republican Party’s outspoken and outrageous hard-right outliers like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — of Jewish space-laser fame — by stripping her of committee assignments, the new Republican speaker, Kevin McCarthy, announced an intent to do the same to Omar.
But McCarthy has a problem. In a fractious House Republican caucus where McCarthy has only a whisper of a majority, he needs to move carefully. And not everyone in his caucus is with him in removing Omar, the first member of Congress born in Africa, from the Foreign Affairs Committee and its Africa subcommittee. Two other Democrats — Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of California — are also on McCarthy’s hit list for removal from their committee assignments.
Most outspoken in her opposition is Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), who criticized McCarthy’s proposed ouster plans as a distraction from the serious and necessary work the House should be doing. We agree. And we encourage McCarthy to stop wasting time.
The attempt to cancel Omar, Schiff and Swalwell is nothing more than politically infected vindictiveness. If Democratic leadership wants a party member to serve on a particular committee (in a seat reserved for a Democrat) and is willing to accept the consequences of that choice, that preference should be respected. And if anyone wants to remove a targeted member from Congress, then they need to work to convince the targeted member’s constituents to vote them out.
Our focus is not only on Republicans. We call for consistency. We encourage a single standard. And it is for that reason that we believe it was a mistake in 2021 for House Democrats to strip Georgia’s Greene of her committee memberships in part for her past embrace of the QAnon conspiracy movement. Quite simply, we don’t believe it is productive for one party to punish members of the other party simply because it can.
McCarthy pledged to punish targeted Democrats should he be elected speaker. If his caucus doesn’t give him the support he seeks, he will at least be able to say that he tried. But trying and failing is not a good political look. So rather than wasting valuable time and political capital on seeking to punish opponents, McCarthy should spend his time trying to address some of the big issues facing this country and working to do something constructive. In order to succeed, and given his fragile leadership position, McCarthy and friends will have to work with Democrats in the House, in the Senate and in the White House. ■