Dec 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House passes Rep. Omar's anti-Islamaphobia bill

Rep. Ilhan Omar. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House on Tuesday passed Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) bill, 219-212, to combat Islamophobia amid controversy over how to handle Rep. Lauren Boebert's (R-Colo.) anti-Muslim rhetoric toward Omar.

Why it matters: The move has been interpreted as an effort by Democratic leaders to address Boebert’s inflammatory remarks while stopping short of punishing her.

  • The Democratic caucus’ left flank has unified around a push to strip Boebert of her committee assignments, with some progressives leading the effort and saying the Islamophobia bill doesn’t do enough to directly address her comments.
  • The bill passed on a party-line vote, with no Republicans supporting the bill.
  • Democratic leaders have bristled at the idea, arguing it’s the responsibility of House Republican leadership to reprimand and punish their members.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked Tuesday whether Omar’s bill would be the only response to Boebert’s comments, told reporters, “No.” She declined to say whether the House would move to strip Boebert of her committee assignments.

The details: The legislation would create an office at the State Department focused on monitoring and combatting Islamophobia. It would also require the department’s annual human rights report to include information on acts of Islamophobia abroad.

  • The special envoy post instituted by the bill mirrors an existing State Department position focused on antisemitism.
  • “The creation of the Special Envoy will help policymakers better understand the interconnected, global problem of anti-Muslim bigotry,” Omar's office said in a press release when the bill was introduced in October.
  • The release added that the bill would “establish a comprehensive strategy for establishing U.S. leadership in combatting Islamophobia worldwide.”

The backdrop: The bill’s passage comes amid an uproar over Boebert’s rhetoric.

  • Boebert has persistently used the term “Jihad Squad” to refer to Omar and her progressive colleagues, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who is also Muslim.
  • More recently, video surfaced of Boebert repeatedly telling a story in which she joked about the Minnesota congresswoman posing a terror threat to the Capitol. Omar has said the story is fictional.

The conservative Republican Study Committee argued the bill is made redundant by three State Department offices who "already work on the issue of human rights and religious freedom for Muslims around the world."

“Tis the season of misplaced priorities,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said of the legislation in a floor speech.

  • “My colleagues seem to think Islamophobia is what Americans care about,” Crenshaw continued. “Well I’d rather talk about something Americans care about: gassing up their cars and keeping their heat on.”

What’s next: Given the broad opposition to the bill from House Republicans, it may face an uphill battle in the Senate, where Democrats would need 10 GOP votes to pass it.

Go deeper: Omar releases profanity-laced voicemail

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