Updated Feb 1, 2023 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy finds escape hatch on Omar vote

Rep. Ilhan Omar, wearing a peach-colored headscarf, looks at a binder while standing under studio lights.

Rep. Ilhan Omar. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

The House is preparing to vote on a resolution to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the Foreign Affairs Committee as soon as Wednesday after Republicans found a way to bring a key GOP holdout on board.

Why it matters: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) looks to be on the cusp of avoiding another destabilizing defeat just weeks after his speaker election went to a historic 15 ballots.

  • Republicans had been dragging their feet on scheduling the vote, with three GOP holdouts and several more absences keeping them below the threshold they need to pass party-line bills with their five-vote majority.
  • Republicans are targeting Omar, a prominent progressive and critic of Israel, over her past antisemitic remarks in the past. She apologized for some of her tweets in 2019.

Driving the news: The Rules Committee is meeting Tuesday evening to consider the resolution kicking Omar off her committees, slating it for a vote in the House as soon as this week.

  • The meeting comes after Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), who had been one of three Republicans planning to vote no, said Tuesday that she will vote for the resolution after it added language that allows members to appeal their removals from committees.
  • “I appreciate Speaker McCarthy’s willingness to address legitimate concerns and add due process language to our resolution,” she said in a statement.
  • Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) told Axios that Republicans have the votes.

Details: The text of the resolution, introduced by Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio) on Tuesday, says that "any Member reserves the right to bring a case before the Committee on Ethics as grounds for an appeal to the Speaker of the House for reconsideration of any committee removal decision."

  • Miller told Axios that, under this process, the Ethics Committee — which is split evenly along party lines — would "take up the investigation and then make the ruling."

The other side: Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), the top Democrat on the Ethics Committee, said Republicans would have to change House rules in order to create that process.

  • "They couldn't just provide something by way of a resolution against Omar tomorrow that would include a change to the ethics rules," she said. "I read the rules package, there's nothing in there about that."
  • A senior Republican staffer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Axios the added language "merely references an existing process and in no way begins an appeal procedure or guarantees her committee seat will be reconsidered. It’s non-binding and not actionable."

What they’re saying: Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) told Axios the language is aimed at addressing the concerns of multiple members who “wanted to make sure there was due process.”

  • But not everyone is swayed. "I'm still a 'no,'" Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who has expressed concerns about the partisan tit-for-tat on committee assignments, told Axios on Tuesday.
  • Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), an undecided, told Axios last week that giving Omar “due process” and an “opportunity to defend her prior statements” was his primary concern. He said Tuesday he hadn’t seen the resolution.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details of the resolution.

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