House Republicans are scrambling to find a legislative tactic to keep Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar off the House Foreign Affairs Committee, after failing to unify their conference behind the idea.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had planned to keep the Minnesota Democrat from the committee by having Republicans vote down her appointment. A full House vote usually is needed to approve committee assignments, which are at the discretion of party leaders.
But Mr. McCarthy’s plan hit a wall when several members of his own party objected publicly. Since Republicans have only a narrow majority in the House, the opposition has forced GOP leaders to explore other avenues to block Ms. Omar.
One idea being considered is to have the GOP majority on the House Foreign Affairs Committee vote not to seat Ms. Omar. A senior GOP aide told The Washington Times that the tactic was being explored and could be a “backdoor” strategy to block Ms. Omar even if the full House votes to seat her.
The idea still has to be vetted by the House Rules Committee, which did not respond to requests for comment. Another GOP aide said under the proposal, Democrats could introduce legislation to reverse the committee’s action, but Mr. McCarthy could block it from coming to the floor.
“The speaker decides what comes up for a vote,” said the aide. “Even if Democrats got the 218 signatures needed to discharge the legislation and force a vote, the process would take weeks, by which time attention would turn to other issues.”
Ms. Omar, a firebrand progressive member of the congressional “squad,” has long drawn ire from Republicans and moderate Democrats for her anti-Israel rhetoric. Mr. McCarthy has said that her previous comments accusing Israel of having “hypnotized the world” makes her unfit to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
During an interview on CNN Sunday, Ms. Omar defended herself by claiming she was unaware her comments were hurtful.
“I certainly did not or was not aware that the word ‘hypnotized’ was a trope. I wasn’t aware of the fact that there are tropes about Jews and money. That has been a very enlightening part of this journey,” she said.
Mr. McCarthy defended his decision to go forward with the upcoming vote on Ms. Omar.
“Now Congresswoman Omar, the thing she has said, as a member of Congress, she said, people only love Israel for the Benjamins. She said on 9/11, ‘Something happened there.’ She equated the U.S. military and the Israeli security forces equal to Hamas are even going further, and claiming it to others inside the Middle East,” he said.
Not everyone agrees, however. At least three House Republicans have already signaled they are unlikely to support barring Ms. Omar from the Foreign Affairs panel.
The opposition could spell disaster for Mr. McCarthy, since Republicans can only lose four votes on any measure, given their slim House majority.
“I think that we should not engage in this tit-for-tat. I am opposed to the selection or the removal of Congresswoman Omar from [the] committee,” Rep. Ken Buck told NBC’s “Meet the Press” last week. “I have a little bit less certainty about Congressman Schiff and Swalwell on [the] Intelligence [committee] just because it’s a little bit different than a regular committee, but I’m going to think through that and make a decision.”
Mr. Buck, Colorado Republican, was recently passed over by Mr. McCarthy for a prime subcommittee chairmanship.
Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana is also opposed. Rep. Nancy Mace, meanwhile, is undecided but leaning against the maneuver.
GOP opponents have said it would be unfair to block Ms. Omar from serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee after strenuously objecting to Democrats kicking off two Republicans from their assignments last Congress.
“I’m not going to be a hypocrite just because Republicans are in the majority now,” said Ms. Mace, South Carolina Republican.
Apart from the three, several other Republicans are on the fence about blocking Ms. Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. They include centrist Republicans, like Rep. David Valadao of California, and arch-conservatives, including Tennesse Rep. Tim Burchett.
Mr. McCarthy has already followed through on another pledge to block Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of California, last week from the House Intelligence Committee.
Mr. McCarthy said that Mr. Swalwell’s former association with a Chinese spy and Mr. Schiff’s partisan gamesmanship on the committee, and amplification of the debunked anti-Trump Steele dossier, as reasons to bump them off the panel.
“Adam Schiff lied to the American public. He came after [former Intelligence Chairman] Devin Nunez. We had the inspector general come out and say what Adam Schiff was saying was a lie,” Mr. McCarthy told Fox News Channel host Mark Levin Sunday night. “He used his role as knowing intel to say it was Russia collusion, which was a lie.”