House Republicans on Monday announced plans to censure Rep. Ilhan Omar and the three other members of “The Squad” over their comments last week equating the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.
The resolution was aimed at condemning Ms. Omar along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Republicans said their rhetoric defended terrorist organizations and contributed to antisemitic attacks.
“Last week, congresswoman Ilhan Omar compared the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban,” said Claudia Tenney, New York Republican and one of the lead sponsors of the resolution.
“Sadly, this is not out of character for The Squad, who have made a habit of trafficking in antisemitic rhetoric. Their actions have been completely unchecked by Democratic leadership in the House, even as vile attacks against Jewish Americans are rising. Enough is enough. Antisemitism has no place in Congress or the Democratic Party. Speaker Pelosi won’t stand up and take action, which is why I’m honored to do so today alongside congressmen Waltz and Banks. We are sending a clear message that this type of rhetoric is unacceptable.”
The other Republicans who introduced the bill were Reps. Michael Waltz of Florida and Jim Banks of Indiana.
A censure resolution would increase the pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, to allow a formal punishment of Ms. Omar, whose anti-Israel stance has riled her colleagues since she joined Congress in 2019.
Mrs. Pelosi and her Democratic leadership team strongly discouraged Ms. Omar‘s rhetoric last week but refused to impose a penalty. By Sunday, Mrs. Pelosi insisted that the statement wasn’t “a rebuke” of Ms. Omar, the first Somali American and the first naturalized U.S. citizen of African birth elected to Congress.
The episode highlights the rift in the Democratic Caucus over Israel. Younger, far-left members tend to side with Palestinians rather than join the party’s traditional support of the Jewish state.
The Republican censure resolution likely would be just the beginning. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, is expected to push a privileged resolution to strip Ms. Omar of her seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
A vote on either measure could be close in the narrowly divided chamber.
The latest saga for Ms. Omar began a week ago when she questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken about U.S. policy toward Israel.
“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,” Ms. Omar told Mr. Blinken at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban.”
The remarks quickly ignited a firestorm in the House Democratic Caucus, beginning with an open letter by 12 Jewish Democrats condemning Ms. Omar‘s rhetoric and demanding that she clarify her remarks.
“Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided,” the lawmakers said. “Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and contemptible organizations that engage in terrorism at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice.”
The statement led to further infighting among Democrats. Several Squad members came to Ms. Omar‘s defense and said the letter writers were Islamophobic and mischaracterized her statement.
By the end of the week, Ms. Omar issued a statement saying she was “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
She questioned Mr. Blinken about ongoing investigations by the International Criminal Court and did not intend to equate Hamas and the Taliban to the U.S and Israel, she said.
After Ms. Omar’s clarification, Mrs. Pelosi joined her party’s leadership team in chiding Ms. Omar for making the comparison. The Democrats said in a statement that they welcomed Ms. Omar‘s clarification, and they stopped short of taking official punitive action.
“Legitimate criticism of the policies of both the United States and Israel is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate,” they said. “And indeed, such criticism is essential to the strength and health of our democracies. But drawing false equivalencies between democracies like the U.S. and Israel and groups that engage in terrorism like Hamas and the Taliban foments prejudice and undermines progress toward a future of peace and security for all.”
Ms. Tlaib quickly responded with a tweet stating, “House Democratic leadership should be ashamed of its relentless, exclusive tone policing of Congresswomen of color.”
Mrs. Pelosi told CNN on Sunday that the leaderships’ statement was not intended as a rebuke.
“We did not rebuke her. We acknowledged that she made a clarification,” she said. “Congresswoman Omar is a valued member of our caucus.”
Mrs. Pelosi said the matter was over as far as she was concerned. “End of subject. Whatever people go out and say is up to them.”
Republicans criticized the speaker for failing to fully address Ms. Omar‘s remarks.
“Speaker Pelosi‘s continued failure to address the issues in her caucus sends a message to the world that Democrats are tolerant of antisemitism and sympathizing with terrorists,” Mr. McCarthy said Thursday via Twitter.
The National Republican Congressional Committee unleashed early Monday in response to Mrs. Pelosi‘s appearance on “State of the Union.”
“By failing to stand by their weak rebuke of Ilhan Omar‘s disgusting comments, Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team are condoning antisemitic and anti-American rhetoric,” said NRCC spokesperson Mike Berg. “Pelosi‘s message is clear: Antisemites like Omar are a key part of the Democrats’ coalition.”
The Republican resolution marks the first move to formally censure Ms. Omar for her latest dig at Israel. The lawmakers included 15 pages of other remarks that they deemed antisemitic rhetoric by Squad members in floor speeches and tweets. House members have attempted in the past to censure Ms. Omar for similar incendiary remarks.
In March 2019, the House approved an anti-hate resolution after Ms. Omar made derogatory statements about Israel‘s influence in U.S. politics. Some of her colleagues viewed the remarks as antisemitic, and she later apologized.
That time, the rebuke of Ms. Omar began as a move for censure, but Mrs. Pelosi and her lieutenants watered down the resolution to broadly condemn hate speech. The resolution did not specifically name Ms. Omar.