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Democratic leaders not looking to punish Ilhan Omar after her apology for anti-Semitic remarks

Omar will not be stripped of her committee assignments, Hoyer said

Post-It Notes with words of support are posted on the nameplate for Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., outside her office in the Longworth House Office Building on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Post-It Notes with words of support are posted on the nameplate for Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., outside her office in the Longworth House Office Building on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Democratic leaders do not plan to strip freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar of her committee assignments or take other action against her for comments they said were offensive and invoked anti-Semitic tropes.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he takes Omar at her word that she didn’t intend to be anti-Semitic when she said lawmakers took pro-Israel stances because of political contributions from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Omar has “unequivocally” apologized for the comments — after Democratic leaders called on her to do so — saying she did not mean offense or to invoke an anti-Semitic trope about Jewish money. At the same time, the Minnesota Democrat affirmed her opposition to lobbyists like AIPAC being involved in politics.

Hoyer said he didn’t think Omar equivocated in her apology and was forgiving of her comments so long as she doesn’t repeat them.

“I don’t think she’s anti-Semitic,” the Maryland Democrat said. “She did apologize. The key will be that when we make a mistake like that, conscious or unconscious, that we don’t repeat it. That will be the proof of the pudding.”

He also noted he had not talked to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who said Republicans will take action of their own this week.

While no decision about the specific action has been made yet, it could come in the form a resolution rebuking Omar’s comments and rejecting anti-Semitism. New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin has such a resolution that GOP leadership is considering among its options for actions.

Omar referred to her statement when asked about the criticism of her tweets. She said she had “no concerns” about Republicans taking action against her.

Hoyer declined to say whether Democrats would move to table the Zeldin resolution if Republicans were to try to force a vote on it.

“I don’t want to anticipate that. We’ll see what they do,” he said.

Asked if Democratic leaders would consider stripping Omar of her committee assignments like Republican leaders did when Rep. Steve King made remarks questioning when white supremacy became offensive, Hoyer said, “Of course not.”

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn also said he doesn’t think additional action needs to be taken against Omar since she apologized.

The majority leader said the situation with King merited stronger action because the Iowa Republican had for years been using language that tended to denigrate people because of their race.

“The difference between the King scenario was that it had been a long time coming,” Hoyer said. “And very frankly the president of the United States has used some pretty harsh negative language about people. Should he be removed?”

Zeldin called on Democrats to back up their words with actions, saying he’d like to see a vote on his resolution and for Omar to be stripped of her committee assignments.

“I don’t think there should be a double standard,” he said, citing the majority’s rush to condemn King with a resolution of disapproval.

Zeldin and Omar had agreed to meet with one another after a recent Twitter spat over previous anti-Israel remarks she made. Their staffs have been talking in an effort to set that up but they’ve not yet had a conversation, Zeldin said.

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