Democrats delay vote on antisemitism to include other types of bigotry

Leadership had initially hoped to bring the resolution to the floor Wednesday, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday evening would only commit to holding the vote sometime this week.

March 6, 2019 14:29
Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C

Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (photo credit: FLICKR)


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WASHINGTON (TNS)— House Democrats will not vote on an antisemitism resolution Wednesday as they are still refining the language of the measure, with multiple members saying it is likely to be broadened to reject other forms of religious bigotry such as Islamophobia.

The resolution is Democratic leadership’s response to recent comments from Minnesota freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar that lawmakers in both parties have said play into antisemitic stereotypes. Some Democrats appear to be concerned, however, that the resolution only targets offenses stirred up by Omar’s comments and not other forms of religious bigotry, including attacks Omar herself has faced for being Muslim.

The last-minute changes attempting to address those concerns left the vote’s exact timing up in the air. Leadership had initially hoped to bring the resolution to the floor Wednesday, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday evening would only commit to holding the vote sometime this week.

“The language is being put together now, and you’ll see it when we have it finished,” the California Democrat told reporters, declining to specify what is being added to the resolution.

A Democratic leadership aide said the vote will not take place Wednesday but could happen as soon as Thursday.

Pelosi confirmed she spoke with Omar over the weekend, as the resolution was being drafted, but offered no details about their conversation.

Members of House Democratic leadership leaving their weekly meeting Tuesday evening had little to share about the evolving resolution.

“I think they’re going to circulate a revised draft that talks about other forms of religious bigotry,” said California Rep. Ted Lieu, who co-chairs the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina said he wants the resolution to be “anti-hate” to reject all forms of bigotry and prejudice.

“Our party stands strong against antisemitism. Our party stands strong against racism,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, who is the leadership representative for members who have served five terms or less. The Maryland Democrat noted he advocated addressing both in the resolution.

An initial draft of the resolution being circulated Monday did not name Omar specifically, but it did reject “the myth of dual loyalty,” a reference that seemed to rebuke her most recent comments about Israel that have caused consternation among her colleagues.

“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Omar said at an event last week.

The draft resolution also referenced stereotypes about Jews and money like the anti-Semitic belief that Jews control the banks, media and the government. Omar last month had come under fire for accusing politicians of being influenced by donations from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group.

Omar declined to answer reporters’ questions Tuesday. However, she did retweet a few people on Twitter who were coming to her defense, one of whom used the hashtag #IStandWithIlhan.

Outside progressive groups, such as Democracy for America and CREDO Action, issued statements Tuesday criticizing Democratic leaders for using the antisemitism resolution to attack Omar.

“The Democratic Party is united in its opposition to antisemitism. Full stop,” Democracy for America Chair Charles Chamberlain said. “At the same time, everyone paying attention knows that the particular resolution being pushed right now, not to hold Republicans accountable for the countless times they have stood silently as the president whitewashed neo-Nazis, but instead to tell a newly elected black, Muslim, refugee congresswoman to sit down and shut up.”

Chamberlain added that if Democrats are serious about standing up to hate, they should do so with a resolution that “condemns antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-black racism, xenophobia, as well as the disgusting physical and verbal threats that Rep. Omar herself has faced in recent weeks.”

Heidi Hess, a co-director at CREDO Action, referenced those threats in her own statement.

“Rep. Omar’s willingness to voice badly needed and substantive critiques about Israeli government policies and disturbing trends in American foreign policy has earned her public condemnation, slander, and even threats of physical violence,” Hess said. “Instead of throwing her under the bus, Democratic leadership should have Rep. Omar’s back in pushing back against increasingly dangerous attacks and threats from the far right.”

Omar’s progressive freshman colleagues, such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have also come to her defense.

“One of the things that is hurtful about the extent to which reprimand is sought of Ilhan is that no one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities (during the shutdown, a GOP member yelled “Go back to Puerto Rico!” on the floor),” Ocasio-Cortez said in series of tweets.

“It’s not my position to tell people how to feel, or that their hurt is invalid,” she added. “But incidents like these do beg the question: where are the resolutions against homophobic statements? For anti-blackness? For xenophobia? For a member saying he’ll ‘send Obama home to Kenya?’”

Republicans, meanwhile, feel like Democratic leaders aren’t doing enough to tamp down on Omar. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise both think Pelosi should remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

“When we had a member on our side of the aisle, Steve King, that said something that we did not believe represented our party or our country, we quickly acted and we removed him from committee,” McCarthy. “This is the second time that Congresswoman Omar has said something and I haven’t seen any action from their side of the aisle.”

The California Republican said he heard on the floor Tuesday evening that Democrats can’t pass their antisemitism resolution as written, even though it is not much different from antisemitism language Republicans got Democrats to agree to add to an unrelated measure on US involvement in Yemen.

McCarthy said Republicans would support the Democrats’ antisemitism resolution as currently written but said there should be stronger action taken against Omar to ensure she doesn’t continue to use offensive language.

“There are options that the House Republicans can do, and I’m looking at every option,” he said. “But I would like to see Nancy Pelosi stand strong, especially as speaker.”


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