After a year that saw three censures and an expulsion, the House seems ready to pick up where it left off, as members launch more attempts to punish their colleagues.
The latest effort comes from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is taking aim at Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar over disputed remarks she made to a group of Somali Americans.
Greene, the Georgia Republican who in the past has spoken at a conference of white nationalists, says she wishes she could “deport” her colleague but would settle for a censure instead. She is forcing action by offering a privileged resolution that would censure Omar for what she describes as “treasonous statements.” The House must act on the resolution next week.
“I urge my colleagues to vote to censure, but I wish I had the votes to expel and deport her,” Greene wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Video of Omar giving a speech in the Somali language at a recent Minneapolis event has circulated widely on social media, alongside a translation that critics have seized on to paint her as anti-American. “I am here to protect the interests of Somalia from inside the U.S. system,” that translation reads in part.
Omar has dismissed that as “completely off,” circulated a different translation of her remarks and fired back at Republicans. “They were an easy mark, lol,” she wrote on X in response to a post that said, “An African breakaway state succeeded in psyoping American conservatives.”
At the event, Omar was addressing the crowd about Ethiopia’s recent announcement that it would aid Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognized by the international community, in exchange for access to the sea. When the video initially went viral, it was posted by someone identifying themselves as an official from Somaliland.
Somalis argue the agreement is a threat to their sovereignty, and tensions have simmered in the region.
In her speech, Omar told the crowd she would always support a unified Somalia, according to an independent translation commissioned by the Minnesota Reformer. “As long as I am in Congress, no one will take over the seas belonging to the nation of Somalia,” she said, according to that translation.
Still, Republicans have piled on Omar in the days since the video surfaced.
“Ilhan Omar’s appalling, Somalia-first comments are a slap in the face to the Minnesotans she was elected to serve and a direct violation of her oath of office. She should resign in disgrace,” House Majority Whip Tom Emmer wrote on X on Monday.
On Wednesday, Emmer called for an ethics investigation into Omar in a letter sent to House Ethics Chairman Michael Guest, R-Texas, and ranking member Susan Wild, D-Pa.
And Greene’s resolution calls not only for Omar’s censure but also for her removal from the Budget Committee and the Education and the Workforce Committee. Omar was removed in 2023 from the Foreign Affairs Committee for making remarks seen as antisemitic. She had previously apologized for using “antisemitic tropes” to describe the influence of pro-Israel lobbying groups.
The first Somali American and the first African refugee in Congress, Omar is also one of the first two Muslim women to serve. The other is Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who has also earned the ire of Greene.
Last year, Greene launched an effort to censure Tlaib over comments she made about the Israel-Hamas war. In a statement at the time, Tlaib accused Greene’s resolution of being “deeply Islamophobic.”
A different effort to censure Tlaib ultimately succeeded in the House, making her one of three members last year to receive the punishment, along with Democratic Reps. Jamaal Bowman of New York and Adam B. Schiff of California.
Censure was formerly rare in the House and amounts to a public shaming. Censured members are often required to present themselves in the well of the chamber as the resolution is read. (A more concrete punishment is to expel a member from Congress altogether, as lawmakers did to New York Republican George Santos last year.)
Prior to the trio of Democrats rebuked in 2023, only two members of the House had been censured in all of the 21st century.
This Congress has seen an uptick in censure attempts as members engage in a bitter back-and-forth tied to larger partisan battles. Earlier this year, for example, New York Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman introduced a resolution calling for the censure of Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik for referring to rioters facing criminal charges for their involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack as “hostages.”
Members on both sides of the aisle have aired their frustration about the recent trend of introducing censures as privileged resolutions, as Greene did this week. The procedural tool allows any member of the House to essentially sidestep leadership and force action on the floor within two legislative days.
“These privileged resolutions, to censure and to impeach, it’s such a colossal waste of time,” House Rules ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said in December. “These people aren’t interested in governing, they’re interested in distraction.”