Republican congressman Ken Buck (Colo.) says he will break with his party to vote in favor of keeping anti-Israel Democrat Ilhan Omar (Minn.) on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Buck is the third Republican to buck House Speaker Keven McCarthy (R., Calif.) in his bid to boot Omar from the committee due to her anti-Semitic comments. Omar, in 2012, said that “Israel has hypnotized the world.” In 2019, she took aim at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the country’s most prominent pro-Israel lobby, saying, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” Buck joins Reps. Nancy Mace (R., S.C.) and Victoria Spartz (R., Ind.) in opposing the move.
The vote to remove Omar will require a full majority of the House to back the bid, and with three Republicans joining Democrats in opposition, the chances for a successful vote are becoming increasingly slim in the narrowly Republican-controlled chamber. The vote is an early test for McCarthy as he tries to exert control over a divided Republican caucus.
Buck said on Friday during an interview with NBC News that he will lend his support to Omar as a show of protest against efforts to strip members of their committee assignments. Democrats, when they controlled the House, removed Reps. Marjorie Taylor Green (R., Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.) from their committee assignments over tenuous claims they incited violence. McCarthy has said one of his top priorities is taking Omar off the Foreign Affairs Committee, where she has served as a reliably anti-Israel voice on a committee historically known for its vociferous support for the Jewish state.
“I think that we should not engage in this tit-for-tat,” Buck said during the interview. His office later told Axios that Buck “wouldn’t support the removal of Rep. Omar” from the committee.
Spartz offered a similar explanation for her opposition last week.
“Two wrongs do not make a right. Speaker Pelosi took unprecedented actions last Congress to remove Reps. Greene and Gosar from their committees without due process,” Spartz said. “Speaker McCarthy is taking unprecedented actions this Congress to deny some committee assignments to the minority without proper due process again.”
Buck, Mace, and Spartz are standing behind Omar even as she maligns Republicans as Islamophobic bigots. During a Sunday interview on CNN, Omar claimed Republicans only want to remove her from the Foreign Affairs Committee because they are prejudiced against Muslims.
“These people are OK with Islamophobia,” Omar said. “They’re OK with trafficking in their own ways in anti-Semitism. They are not OK with having a Muslim have a voice on that committee.”
Omar also defended her use of anti-Semitic tropes in the interview, saying she was not aware her claims about wealthy Jews controlling politics were anti-Semitic in nature.
“I was not aware that the word hypnotize was a trope,” Omar said on Sunday. “I wasn’t aware of the fact that there are tropes about Jews and money.”