Updated Jan 28, 2023 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy's bid to oust Omar from committee in peril as third GOP rep. objects

Rep. Ken Buck. Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) on Friday joined a group of House Republicans opposed to kicking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) off the Foreign Affairs Committee, putting the high-profile effort dangerously close to failing.

Why it matters: It could lead to another destabilizing loss for Republicans on the House floor just weeks after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took 15 ballots to capture the speaker’s gavel amid defections from his party.

Driving the news: Buck, a member of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, told NBC News’ Chuck Todd he is against Republicans removing Democrats like Omar from their committees.

  • "I think that we should not engage in this tit-for-tat," Buck said.
  • Buck’s office confirmed his plans to vote no, telling Axios he “right now wouldn’t support the removal of Rep. Omar" from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Catch up quick: House Democrats on Friday unanimously approved a list of committee assignments for their members that keeps Omar on Foreign Affairs after she applied to stay on.

By the numbers: With a five-vote margin and Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) unable to vote as he recovers from an accident, McCarthy is dangerously close to falling short of the GOP votes he needs.

  • Buck is the third House Republican to say they oppose removing Omar, along with Reps. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) and Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.).
  • Democrats, for their part, are likely to form a united front. “We are still doing the work but [are] confident all factions of the caucus are united against the attempt to remove her,” a Democratic leadership aide told Axios.
  • McCarthy will need to run the table with those Republicans who remain undecided, including Biden-supporting district Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and David Valadao (R-Calif.) and Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), the chair of the moderate Republican Governance Group.

The big picture: The heated partisan conflict over committee assignments began in 2021, when Democrats and a small number of Republicans voted to remove Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) from their panels.

  • Republicans said at the time that the move set a new precedent and vowed to take revenge.
  • Making good on that promise, McCarthy this week formally removed Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) from the House Intelligence Committee, a move some of the House speaker's caucus members opposed and a stark escalation in an ongoing tit-for-tat with Democrats over committee assignments.

What he's saying: After saying he's opposed to Omar's removal, Buck added: "I have a little bit less certainty about Congressman Schiff and Swalwell on Intelligence just because it’s a little bit different than a regular committee. But I’m going to think through that and make a decision."

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