The House voted Thursday to condemn anti-Semitic comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar as part of a broader resolution decrying bigotry in all its forms, including Islamophobia and white nationalism.
Ms. Omar was not named in the resolution, but it specifically decried the types of dual-allegiance attacks she made against Jewish members of Congress, and most lawmakers who spoke Thursday said there was little doubt in their mind they were denouncing her by voting for the measure.
“We would not be on this floor right now otherwise,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, one of two Jewish Republicans.
The resolution passed 407-23, with the “No” votes coming from Republicans.
The congresswoman didn’t speak on the floor during the debate, nor did any of the freshmen lawmakers who had leapt to her defense in recent days, complaining that Democrats were being too hard on one of their own while not doing more to decry President Trump and Republicans for offensive comments.
After the vote, though, Ms. Omar and the other two Muslim members of Congress — Reps. Andre Carson and Rashida Tlaib — took a victory lap, pointing to the language condemning Islamophobia.
“It’s the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation’s history,” they said.
Democratic leaders sought to paper over the party’s divisions, which dominated news coverage in a week they’d hoped to devote to their campaign and elections overhaul.
“Make no mistake, our caucus is unified. But unity does not mean unanimity,” said Minority Whip James Clyburn, the most senior black member of the House. “We are the most diverse caucus in the history of Congress.”
Ms. Omar has been a lightning rod since taking her seat in January.
When she suggested last month that lawmakers who supported Israel were bought off by Jewish money, she apologized, and the whole House voted in favor of a resolution condemning anti-Semitism.
Ms. Omar has yet to apologize for her latest comments suggesting that some of her colleagues were showing dual allegiances: “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
After Rep. Nita Lowey criticized her, Mr. Omar took to Twitter to say: “Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman! I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Ms. Omar’s comments weren’t intended to be anti-Semitic, but said it’s up to her to explain herself.
“I don’t think that the congresswoman perhaps appreciated the full weight of how it was heard by other people,” she said.
Mrs. Pelosi also insisted the vote wasn’t a rebuke of Ms. Omar.
“It’s not about her. It’s about these forms of hate,” the speaker said.
The resolution, though, pointed specifically to the type of allegiance argument Ms. Omar made: “Whether from the political right, center, or left, bigotry, discrimination, oppression, racism and imputations of dual loyalty threaten American democracy and have no place in American political discourse,” the document read.
Republicans said it was a black eye on the House that it’s now had to vote, twice, to rebuke Ms. Omar.
“I don’t want to be here again, but with the way this was handled, I fear we may be. We’re better than this,” Rep. Doug Collins said.
Mr. Zeldin said Democrats should have done more.
“If that member was a Republican that member’s name would be in this resolution, and this resolution would be all about condemning anti-Semitism,” he said.
Democrats countered that the resolution was intended to show Congress using a single voice for all hate.
“What we are doing here is making it unequivocally clear to the public that no one has the support to engage in discrimination and racism and anti-Semitism,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, Louisiana Democrat.
Indeed, while Ms. Omar’s name isn’t in the resolution, her actions are — and equated with abhorrent crimes such as last year’s mass killing at a synagogue in Pennsylvania, the 2015 shooting at a black church in South Carolina, or the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
The resolution was supposed to have been voted on a day earlier, but had to be delayed while Democrats sorted themselves out.
An initial resolution condemning anti-Semitism was deemed too harsh to Ms. Omar, though it didn’t mention her by name. Party leaders added mentions of Islamophobia and racism.
Then on Thursday, the vote was briefly delayed again while Democrats updated the list of aggrieved minorities. Originally it had listed African Americans, Native Americans “and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants.”
Democrats scurried to add in “Latinos,” “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders” and “the LGBTQ community.”
Mr. Collins wondered why they stopped there. He said Mormons could have been included, too.
Or, he said, they could have done away with the list altogether.
“This resolution doesn’t need to be seven pages. It’s just wordy!” he said. “I agree with it. We don’t need to hate.”
Rep. Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said he wished the resolution directly addressed anti-Semitism in light of Ms. Omar’s remarks.
“I think her remarks were very hurtful, and I think her remarks were very painful,” said Mr. Engel, who is Jewish. “I think she should know better as a member of the House. I think she should apologize.”
Twenty-three Republicans voted against the resolution, including Mr. Zeldin. He said it should have been more forceful in denouncing Ms. Omar.
Rep. Mo Brooks, another “No” vote, questioned why the measure condemned discrimination against nearly every group save for Caucasians and Christians.
One Republican, Rep. Steve King, voted “Present.” He was the subject of a rebuke on the House floor earlier this year for comments his colleagues deemed to be white nationalist.
Republicans stripped Mr. King of his committee assignments. Democrats have not ousted Ms. Omar from her perch on the prestigious Foreign Affairs Committee.
Mr. Engel said that decision belongs to party leaders, not him.
Such a move would likely spark a civil war within the party, particularly with liberal groups rallying to defend Ms. Omar.
Working Families Party fund-raised off her situation Thursday, asking supporters to pony up $3 as a sign of support for the embattled congresswoman.
Democracy for America, another liberal group, also fund-raised off Thursday’s debate, and officially endorsed Ms. Omar and fellow freshmen Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Ms. Tlaib for re-election in 2020, citing their success in forcing Democratic leaders to alter resolution.
“Let’s be real here: Both the right-wing and Democrats who support the status quo are well aware of the way these women are changing the discourse in Washington D.C. — and they’re going to be looking for every opportunity to take them down,” the group said.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.