The US House of Representatives formed a majority on Thursday (2) to expel Ilhan Omar, a representative of the Democratic Party, from the Committee on Foreign Relations over comments she made that were considered anti-Semitic.
“It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” the congresswoman wrote on Twitter in 2019, suggesting that American politicians’ support for Israel was motivated by money – the figure of Benjamin Franklin stamps the US$ 100 bill.
At the time, the comment was condemned by both parties, Omar deleted the publication and made a public apology. She claimed that she was unaware that her speech could be related to anti-Semitic stereotypes that treat Jews as greedy people. The case joined another speech in which, before being elected, the deputy said that Israel had “hypnotized the world” and asked that people open their eyes to the “bad actions of the country”.
This Thursday’s vote was tight, but the Republican majority prevailed, with 218 votes in favor of expulsion and 211 against. The Republican Party gained a majority in the House after electing 218 deputies in the mid-term elections in November.
The decision, with new Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy at the helm, was seen as a kind of revenge against the ousting of Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar in 2021. That year, Greene compared mask-wearing requirements and from the Covid vaccine to the Holocaust, which killed 6 million Jews – a statement for which he also apologized. Gosar, on the other hand, posted an animation on social networks in which he appeared killing a congresswoman, Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Kicking Democratic congressmen off committees was a promise McCarthy made in his campaign for the House presidency. For the Republican leader, his opponents set a precedent by expelling parliamentarians when they had a majority in the House.
As president, McCarthy gave committee assignments to Greene and Gosar, as well as George Santos, a newly elected congressman who has admitted to forging much of his résumé. With the disclosure of the scandals, the son of Brazilians announced that he will temporarily step away from these assignments.
Omar is a former refugee from Somalia and one of two Muslim women in Congress, as well as the only one born in an African country. She was in line to be the top Democrat on the Africa subcommittee of the commission from which she was ousted. Alongside Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, she forms the group of progressive women in American politics known as the “Squad”.
Ocasio-Cortez defended her in Thursday’s vote. “One of the sickening legacies of 9/11 was the persecution and racism against Muslims in the US,” he said. “This is about targeting black women. I haven’t received a single apology when my life has been threatened.”
Moments before being expelled, Omar said that his leadership would not be affected if he left the Committee. “My voice will get louder and stronger,” she said.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries also defended the ally. “There was accountability. Ilhan Omar apologized. She indicated that she will learn from her mistakes and that she is building bridges with the Jewish community. [A votação] It wasn’t about accountability, it was about political revenge.”
Republicans, in turn, reaffirmed the position decided in the vote. During the debate, Mike Lawler stated that words and rhetoric matter. “It causes harm. The congresswoman is being held accountable for her words and actions.”
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