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GOP leaders work to lock down votes to remove Omar from Foreign Affairs Committee

<i>Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP</i><br/>
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

By Lauren Fox and Clare Foran, CNN

House Republican leaders have worked to lock down the votes to remove Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from the Foreign Affairs Committee after several members of their conference had signaled resistance to the move.

One of those Republicans, Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, announced on Tuesday that she is now prepared to support a resolution to oust Omar, citing the addition of “due process language.”

“I appreciate Speaker McCarthy’s willingness to address legitimate concerns and add due process language to our resolution. Deliberation and debate are vital for our institution, not top-down approaches,” the congresswoman said in a statement.

Later on Tuesday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy told CNN he has the votes to oust Omar from the committee. “Yes,” he said.

Spartz had previously indicated that she opposed the effort to remove three Democratic lawmakers from committees, including Omar.

Last week, Spartz said in a statement, “Speaker McCarthy is taking unprecedented actions this Congress to deny some committee assignments to the Minority without proper due process.”

The addition of “due process” language may prove to be a sweet spot for GOP leaders and a handful of Republican members who have remained on the fence about a vote to oust Omar, who has been accused by some members of making antisemitic remarks in the past. Omar apologized in 2019 for her remarks, but she has since defended some of her criticisms of Israel and some of its American allies.

GOP Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina told CNN earlier on Tuesday that she too heard there could be a due process provision included in the resolution, but she suggested she needed to see the resolution.

“Here’s the thing. This has never been done before until Democrats did it to Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene,” Mace said. “Typically it’s the conference or the steering committee of each conference … who choose what members go on what committees. This is not a precedent we should be setting at all.”

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida told CNN Tuesday evening that he had just met with McCarthy to discuss changes made to the resolution.

“I’m glad we are focused on due process,” Gaetz said, indicating he was waiting to see the final language before taking a position.

McCarthy vowed last year that if Republicans won back the House majority, he would strip Democrats Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell and Omar of committee assignments, arguing that Democrats created a “new standard” when they held the majority by removing Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona from committees for violent rhetoric and posts.

Congressional Democrats have reacted with outrage — arguing that Greene and Gosar’s behavior merited a major rebuke and saying the move to kick Schiff, Swalwell and Omar off committees appears to be an act of political revenge.

McCarthy has the power to unilaterally block Schiff and Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee because it is a select committee. Ousting Omar, however, from the House Foreign Affairs Committee would require a vote of the full House of Representatives.

House GOP leadership has expressed optimism they’ll have the votes to remove Omar from the committee. But with Democrats poised to oppose the move, it would only take a handful of GOP members to defect and block McCarthy from moving forward given that Republicans control a razor-thin majority in the House.

Democrats had also argued the move by the House GOP is hypocritical — pointing to the fact that embattled GOP Rep. George Santos, who is facing mounting legal issues and growing calls to resign for extensively lying about his resume and identity, had been awarded seats on two committees.

In an abrupt turn of events, however, Santos told the House GOP conference on Tuesday behind closed doors that he wants off of his two committees until his issues are resolved, three members told CNN.

The New York Republican, who has faced calls for his resignation for false statements — including regarding his professional experience, education history and identity — is a member of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the Committee on Small Business. Federal prosecutors are also investigating Santos’ finances. Santos declined to speak to reporters as he left the meeting.

Greene told CNN on Tuesday that it was Santos’ decision that he made on his own to “abstain” from the committees. She said he told the conference he would step aside from the committees as the GOP is trying to oust Omar from Foreign Affairs.

“He just felt like there was so much drama really over the situation, and especially what we’re doing to work to remove Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs committee,” she told CNN.

Omar, Schiff and Swalwell have pushed back in reaction to McCarthy’s effort to strip them of committee seats.

“Kevin McCarthy’s purely partisan moves to strip us from our committee is not only a political stunt, but also a blow to the integrity of our democratic institution and threat to our national security,” Omar said at a recent news conference where she spoke alongside Schiff and Swalwell.

House Democrats criticize move to oust Omar

House Republicans have argued that Omar should not be on the Foreign Affairs committee in light of past statements she has made related to Israel that have sparked controversy and in some cases been criticized by members of both parties as antisemitic.

In 2019, Omar issued a public apology after she faced a backlash for tweets condemned on both sides of the aisle as antisemitic. The apology came after the Minnesota Democrat faced widespread criticism after suggesting Republican support of Israel is fueled by donations from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a prominent pro-Israel group.

There have been other incidents as well: In 2021, a group of Jewish House Democrats accused Omar of equating the US and Israel with the Taliban and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the US. In response, Omar said that she was “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries.”

As House Republicans move to kick Omar off the Foreign Affairs committee, the new GOP majority has granted Greene and Gosar committee assignments for the new Congress.

Greene and Gosar have faced criticism from both sides of the aisle. Last year, Republican leaders in Congress condemned both lawmakers for speaking at a White nationalist conference.

Greene spoke at the America First Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida — an event founded by the far-right activist Nick Fuentes as an alternative to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Gosar appeared at the America First Political Action Conference via a pre-recorded video, HuffPost reported. Gosar also attended the same conference last year.

Greene defended her appearance in a lengthy statement, dismissing the blowback as “fake divisions and disingenuous allegations” and proclaiming that she won’t “cancel” other conservatives even if she finds their statements “tasteless, misguided or even repulsive at times.”

A CNN KFile review of Gosar’s events and social media posts over the years found that the lawmaker has long associations with White nationalists, a pro-Nazi blogger and far-right fringe players. A spokesperson for Gosar declined to comment on specific questions about the congressman’s associates in response to the reporting.

This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Morgan Rimmer and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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