Rep. Ilhan Omar called Texas Gov. Greg Abbott a “hypocrite” over his contrasting stances on the “right to choose” when it comes to vaccines and abortions.
The Biden administration announced Thursday it would require businesses with more than 100 employees to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for their employees, or submit them to weekly testing. The announcement prompted swift backlash from many Republicans, including the lone star state’s governor.
“Biden’s vaccine mandate is an assault on private businesses. I issued an Executive Order protecting Texans’ right to choose whether they get the COVID vaccine,” Abbott said in a tweet. “Texas is already working to halt this power grab.”
But Omar was quick to pounce on the governor’s support of the “right to choose” when it comes to vaccines.
“Don’t pretend like you believe in the right to choose, you hypocrite,” the Minnesota Democrat said in a retweet of Abbott, in apparent reference to a new abortion law in Texas.
The new law went into effect in Texas last week after the Supreme Court declined to block it. The law bans all abortions in the state after six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
Abbott signed the bill in May, saying it would ensure “that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”
Critics of the law argue that most women do not even know they are pregnant at six weeks. One worker at an abortion clinic in Houston said they had to turn away 70% of women who came in seeking care in the week after the law went into effect.
House Democrats advanced a $3.5 trillion spending plan in a party-line vote, making headway on a key part of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda after a major intraparty brawl.
Democrats approved the budget blueprint in a 220-212 vote with every Republican in opposition. They relied on a procedural maneuver that packaged multiple bills together, including a rule setting debate boundaries, a voting rights bill, and an infrastructure bill.
“Passing this rule paves the way for the Building Back Better plan, which will forge legislative progress unseen in 50 years – that will stand for generations alongside the New Deal and the Great Society,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a floor speech ahead of the vote. “This legislation will be the biggest, and perhaps the most controversial initiative that any of us have undertaken in our official lives.”
It capped a remarkable showdown between Pelosi and a bloc of 10 Democratic moderates that tested the California Democrat’s ability to steer her caucus through its slim three-seat majority and nearly stalled Biden’s economic agenda. It may also foreshadow the intraparty fights to come given the vote was only to advance a spending blueprint, and not a full piece of legislation.
Filling in the details is expected to take many weeks, and could spark more fights between progressives and moderates with competing priorities on taxes, healthcare and the safety net. To quell the centrist revolt, Pelosi committed to passing an infrastructure bill by Sept. 27.
The moderate faction led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey rebelled earlier in August and demanded the House first pass a $1 trillion infrastructure bill focused on roads and bridges before they would consider backing the partisan spending plan.
For nearly two months, Pelosi dug in on her insistence that the House would only vote on the bipartisan bill after the Senate passed a separate Democrat-only spending package sometime this fall. Progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota told reporters the clash between Pelosi and the moderates was a “sh*tshow.”
“I don’t understand what they were expecting to achieve,” Omar said, adding she believes the moderates had weakened their bargaining power because they didn’t get a full infrastructure vote they sought.
Pelosi’s maneuver was intended to force House progressives to support an infrastructure bill they had assailed as insufficient, and prod moderates into endorsing the larger social spending package. But it triggered opposition from some centrist Democrats who argued it was unnecessary to delay a bill that would provide funding to repair roads, bridges, highways, and strengthen broadband connections.
“I’m bewildered by my party’s misguided strategy to make passage of the popular, already-written, bipartisan infrastructure bill contingent upon passage of the contentious, yet-to-be-written, partisan reconciliation bill,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida said in an Orlando Sentinel op-ed published Monday evening. She called it “bad policy.”
Reconciliation is a tactic used to pass certain bills with only a simple majority vote. But in a 50-50 Senate, the procedure requires all 50 Senate Democrats to stay united so it garners a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.
The party-line spending plan would expand Medicare so it provides dental, vision, and hearing coverage. It would also set up a national program for paid family and medical leave, tuition-free community college, a child allowance, and initiatives to address the climate crisis. Democrats also intend to include a pathway to citizenship for some unauthorized immigrants living in the US.
It’s been a week since the Taliban captured Kabul, triggering the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government, forcing a chaotic and ongoing evacuation of American and Afghan refugees, and heightening fears about the country’s future.
The swift upheaval reverberated through Congress, with Republicans and Democrats ripping into the US’s actions. Democratic-led committees called for investigations into Biden’s military withdrawal. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy demanded a briefing from the White House on plans to ensure the safe transport of Americans out of the country.
Some prominent progressives have so far limited their public response to a single tweet. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who regularly uses Twitter to raise awareness about issues to her 12.7 million followers and hit back at other politicians, wrote once about the situation on Monday, a day after Kabul fell to the Taliban.
“For all those who lost, sacrificed, suffered, and served in the last 20 years of war and occupation, the United States has a singular responsibility in extending safe refuge to the Afghan people,” she wrote.
Ocasio-Cortez has previously characterized the US’ war in Afghanistan as a “mistake,” but did not scrutinize Biden’s handling of the US’ exit.
The New York firebrand usually does not shy away from criticizing members of her party: In May, Ocasio-Cortez stood up to Biden over his response to the violence in Gaza, claiming his words “dehumanize Palestinians & imply the US will look the other way at human rights violations.”
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont supported the US’ drawdown from Afghanistan. He posted once last Sunday about the fallout on Twitter, writing: “After 20 years of U.S. effort … Afghanistan was left with a corrupt government and an ineffectual military. At this moment, we must do everything we can to evacuate our allies and open our doors to refugees.”
Sanders, who has become a close ally to Biden, similarly avoided criticism of the president.
Ocasio-Cortez, Bush, and Sanders did not immediately return Insider’s requests for comment.
Afghanistan could present a major blow to Biden and the Democrats, who hope to maintain their House and Senate majorities in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections.
A CBS poll on Sunday found that most Americans support Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan, but say the removal of US troops has gone badly. Around 53% of respondents disapprove of Biden’s handling of the withdrawal.
Several progressive Democrats on Tuesday called on President Joe Biden and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to extend a federal eviction moratorium that is set to expire on June 30.
In a letter signed by 41 members of Congress and led by Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Jimmy Gomez of California, the lawmakers urged the White House and CDC to “take action to prevent a historic wave of evictions and keep renters safely in their homes.” The letter was first reported by ABC News.
The group of House Democrats cited Census Bureau data that showed minority households, including Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous, are more likely to be behind on their rent payments, arguing in support of the extension “to protect vulnerable renters” and “curtail the eviction crisis disproportionately impacting our communities of color.”
Around 7 million people are still behind on their rent, according to the Census Bureau.
The lawmakers also pointed to data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that found that communities with lower COVID-19 vaccination rates and higher cases happen to be more at risk of facing eviction.
“Allowing the moratorium to expire before vaccination rates increase in marginalized communities could lead to increased spread of, and deaths from, COVID-19,” they said in the letter.
“Evictions take lives and push households deeper into poverty, impacting everything from health outcomes to educational attainment,” they added. “The impact of the federal moratorium cannot be overstated, and the need to strengthen and extend it is an urgent matter of health, racial, and economic justice.”
Tenants struggling to pay their rent during the COVID-19 economic crisis were handed a lifeline in March 2020, when Congress first passed a federal eviction moratorium. The CDC then issued its own moratorium in September, which has since been extended twice. The current moratorium is set to expire at the end of the month.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is calling for Rep. Ilhan Omar’s removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee as Republicans continue to misconstrue recent comments she made on war crimes investigations, while Democrats largely appear to have moved on.
McCarthy urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to strip Omar from the committee based on what he described as “anti-Semitic” and “anti-American” language from the Minnesota lawmaker.
“I will promise you this. If we are fortunate enough to have the majority, Omar would not be serving on Foreign Affairs or anybody that has an anti-Semitic, anti-American view. That is not productive, and that is not right,” McCarthy said during a “Fox & Friends” appearance on Tuesday.
The comments mark the GOP’s latest efforts to attack Omar, who last week criticized both Democrats and Republicans for taking her words about the US’s opposition to investigate potential war crimes out of context.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle then accused Omar of “equating” the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban, pressuring Omar to clarify her statements. Pushing back against the criticism, she underscored that she was explicitly referencing open ICC investigations.
“Citing an open case against Israel, US, Hamas & Taliban in the ICC isn’t comparison or from ‘deeply seated prejudice,'” Omar continued. “You might try to undermine these investigations or deny justice to their victims but history has thought us that the truth can’t be hidden or silenced forever.”
The Democratic leadership in a statement last week erroneously suggested Omar drew “false equivalencies” between democracies like the US and Israel and terrorist groups, while welcoming the “clarification” issued by the Minnesota Democrat.
In a separate statement, Omar said she was “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
“To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the US and Israel,” Omar said.
Several Democrats came to Omar’s defense, citing a history of Congress members making Islamophobic and racist remarks toward her, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.
“I am tired of colleagues (both D+R) demonizing @IlhanMN. Their obsession with policing her is sick. She has the courage to call out human rights abuses no matter who is responsible,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib tweeted. “That’s better than colleagues who look away if it serves their politics.”
Pelosi: ‘End of subject’
Pelosi in a CNN interview on Sunday made it clear that the Democratic leadership wanted to put the matter to bed and move on.
“She clarified, we thanked her, end of subject,” Pelosi said.
The top Democrat said Omar was a “valued member” of the caucus, and rejected the notion that the Democratic leadership had rebuked the Minnesota lawmaker over her statements.
“We did not rebuke her. We acknowledged that she made a clarification,” Pelosi said. “She asked her questions of the Secretary of State. Nobody criticized those, about how people will be held accountable if we’re not going to the International Court of Justice. That was a very legitimate question. That was not of concern.”
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York also appeared on CNN on Sunday and said Omar’s comments were “absolutely mischaracterized” by Republicans and warned about the consequences of Democrats joining in and legitimizing their bad faith attacks.
“When we feed into that, it adds legitimacy to a lot of this kind of right-wing vitriol. It absolutely increases that target,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And as someone who has experienced that, it’s very difficult to communicate the scale and how dangerous that is.”
“As Speaker Pelosi said, we are putting this behind us and I believe that we will ultimately come together as a caucus,” she went on to say.
Republicans have engaged in a prolonged smear campaign against Omar
The recent attacks on Omar are part of a broader trend or smear campaign primarily perpetuated by Republicans and their allies in the right-wing media.
In 2019, Omar sent tweets that led to widespread allegations of anti-Semitism, and she promptly apologized. The tweets suggested politicians in Congress had been bought off by influential groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which critics said echoed anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money.
Since that controversy, Omar has been vocal in condemning anti-Semitism and attacks on Jewish people while also calling for a more balanced approach to addressing potential human rights abuses by the US and its allies, including Israel.
Omar is one of the first two Muslim women in Congress in US history, and her defenders in Congress say it’s not a coincidence she’s been the target of a coordinated smear campaign by Republicans.
In a statement offering support to Omar last week, the Congressional Progressive Caucus said, “We cannot ignore that a right-wing media echo chamber that has deliberately and routinely attacked a Black, Muslim woman in Congress, distorting her views and intentions, and resulting in threats against Rep. Omar and her staff.”
“We urge our colleagues not to abet or amplify such divisive and bad-faith attacks,” the statement added.
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York on Thursday blasted fellow Democrats for distorting comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota regarding potential war crimes committed by the US, Israel, Hamas, and the Taliban.
“Pretty sick & tired of the constant vilification, intentional mischaracterization, and public targeting of @IlhanMN coming from our caucus,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter. “They have no concept for the danger they put her in by skipping private conversations & leaping to fueling targeted news cycles around her.”
This came after a group of 12 Democrats put out a statement condemning Omar over remarks she made in a tweet regarding a discussion between the Minnesota lawmaker and Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Monday. The statement misleadingly accused Omar of “equating” the US and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban and urged her to issue a clarification.
In a tweets responding to the statement from the group of Democrats, Omar said, “It’s shameful for colleagues who call me when they need my support to now put out a statement asking for ‘clarification’ and not just call. The Islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive. The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable.”
She added, “Citing an open case against Israel, US, Hamas & Taliban in the ICC isn’t comparison or from ‘deeply seated prejudice’. You might try to undermine these investigations or deny justice to their victims but history has thought us that the truth can’t be hidden or silenced forever.”
Democratic leadership on Thursday also released a statement that distorted Omar’s words and suggested she drew “false equivalencies” between democracies like the US and Israel and terrorist groups.
Omar faces consistent attacks from fellow members of Congress
Omar, one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, has repeatedly had her comments on foreign affairs taken out of context by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as well as prominent groups in Washington.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a powerful pro-Israel lobby, released an ad during fighting between Israel and Hamas in May that superimposed Omar’s image over Hamas rockets and distorted comments she’d made about the conflict.
The ad was prompted by an Omar tweet that said, “Israeli air strikes killing civilians in Gaza is an act of terrorism. Palestinians deserve protection. Unlike Israel, missile defense programs, such as Iron Dome, don’t exist to protect Palestinian civilians. It’s unconscionable to not condemn these attacks on the week of Eid.”
The AIPAC ad falsely stated, “When Israel targets Hamas, Rep. Omar calls it an act of terrorism.”
At the time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a rare rebuke of AIPAC, telling reporters, “I don’t agree with Congresswoman Omar’s comments, but it’s very disappointing to see deeply cynical and inflammatory ads twisting her word.”
In 2019, Omar apologized after sending a series of tweets that suggested politicians in Congress had been bought off by groups like AIPAC, which critics said played into anti-Semitic tropes. Omar at the time said, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes … This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Meanwhile, influential politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is Jewish and briefly lived in Israel, have come to Omar’s defense against allegations of anti-Semitism with regard to criticism of the Israeli government.
“Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world. We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel,” Sanders said in a statement in March 2019.
Facebook refused to remove an attack ad falsely linking Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar to Hamas, even after her aides said that similar claims had resulted in death threats to the lawmaker in the past.
The ad was produced by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobbying group, and showed the face of the Minnesota lawmaker, who is Muslim, superimposed onto rockets fired by the Gaza militants toward Israel.
“When Israel targets Hamas, Rep. Omar calls it an act of terrorism,” the caption said. The ad is still live on Facebook.
The ad distorted a tweet by Omar that said that the Israel killing Palestinian civilians in Gaza constituted an act of terrorism. Omar did not allege that Israel’s targeting Hamas constituted terrorism, as the ad claimed.
Omar has long been the focus of right-wing smear campaigns. In 2019, former President Donald Trump posted a video on Facebook attacking Omar, using an out-of-context quote to make it appear that she backed the 9/11 attacks, leading to calls for the president to be banned from the platform.
President Joe Biden’s administration is readying a $735 million sale of precision-guided weapons sale to Israel, a move that was prepared a week before the country became embroiled in deadly conflict with Gaza, multiple reports said.
The White House notified Congress of the plan on May 5, five days before the Gaza militant group Hamas started firing rockets toward Israel, and Israel retaliated with airstrikes, sources familiar with the plans told The Washington Post and CNN.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki told a Monday press briefing that the administration was making use of “intensive, quiet diplomacy behind the scenes.”
The proposed weapons sale is largely of kits that convert unguided rockets into precision missiles, according to The Post. Lawmakers have 15 days – until May 20 – to object, but a resolution of disapproval would be nonbinding, The Post reported.
Such moves have generally gone without objection in Congress, but in the shadow of the current conflict, the Israeli arms sale is now being questioned by a small number of progressive Democratic voices.
‘We’re lucky to catch this weapons sale’
Rep. Ilhan Omar said in a statement Monday that it would be “appalling” if the sale went ahead unconditionally.
“We should be standing unequivocally and consistently on the side of human rights – holding all state and non-state actors accountable for their crimes and using every tool at our disposal to end the violence and bring about peace,” she said.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee met Monday night to discuss the sale, and decided to ask for it to be delayed, Politico reported.
“We’re lucky to catch this weapons sale,” an unnamed Democratic aide told The Post.
Regardless, The Post noted that it would be “highly unlikely” that Congress can block the arms sale by pushing through a disapproval resolution in time.
The resistance comes amid a broader questioning of the Biden administration’s stance toward the Israel-Gaza conflict.
Twenty-nine Democratic senators, led by Sen. Jon Ossoff, called for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict on Sunday night in an implicit rebuke to Biden’s hesitation at the time to do so.
After Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said his entire focus is on stopping President Joe Biden’s administration, Democratic lawmakers renewed calls to end the filibuster.
Speaking of the GOP, McConnell told reporters outside his Kentucky home on Wednesday that “100% of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” NBC News reported.
“We’re confronted with severe challenges from a new administration, and a narrow majority of Democrats in the House and a 50-50 Senate to turn America into a socialist country, and that’s 100% of my focus,” he said.
Democratic members of Congress seized on the remarks as evidence that bipartisanship was not possible and stressed the necessity of ending the filibuster, a rule that requires a 60-vote super-majority to pass legislation in the 100-person Senate.
“The Constitution doesn’t say anything about it taking a super-majority of 60 senators to pass a bill,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a tweet. “It’s time to get rid of the filibuster so Mitch McConnell doesn’t get a veto over the will of the people.”
Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of California said McConnell is using “the same playbook he’s used for years.”
“Anyone expecting a return to some bygone era of bipartisanship isn’t acknowledging the reality that we are in. We MUST eliminate the filibuster,” he said in a tweet.
The Senate is currently split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote, and some Democrats have called for the end of the filibuster as the only way for the Biden administration to accomplish its agenda. Biden himself has said the filibuster has been “abused.”
“If we’re going to achieve anything meaningful for working families we must use reconciliation, abolish the filibuster and pass legislation with 51 votes. We can’t afford to wait,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in response to McConnell’s comments.
But some moderates don’t agree. Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have both refused to support the effort to abolish the filibuster, with Manchin saying it was designed to encourage bipartisan consensus, something that some progressives view as unrealistic.
“Please stop asking us about bipartisanship when this is what the leader of the other party is focused on,” Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted in response to McConnell.
“Democrats can’t repeat the mistake of 2009, we must abolish the filibuster & move legislation that helps us deliver progress for the American people,” she said. “Let’s grow a backbone.”
McConnell’s statements came the same week that former Republican Rep. Justin Amash, who joined the Libertarian party in 2019, praised progressive Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for visiting his University of Chicago class.
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota shared details about her relationship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the first time, and revealed that the two lawmakers are, in fact, friends.
Speaking to USA Today journalist Susan Page for her upcoming book, “Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power,” which comes out Tuesday, Omar said Pelosi was one of the very first people to congratulate her on her primary victory in 2018.
During that phone call, the incoming freshman lawmaker, who wears a hijab and would soon become one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, voiced concerns to Pelosi about the House’s headgear ban.
“Will they amend that for me?” Omar asked Pelosi, per the Politico excerpt. “Would I be able to sit as a member of Congress?”
Pelosi informed Omar not to fret and that she would take care of the issue. She did.
That conversation laid the groundwork for what would eventually become a warm friendship between the two. Although the House speaker would later tussle with members of the so-called Squad – consisting of Omar, and fellow progressive Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts – Omar and Pelosi remained on good terms.
Pelosi would check in on Omar so frequently after that phone call, to the point where Omar’s aides would joke: “Auntie Nancy’s calling.”
In February 2019, top congressional Democrats, including Pelosi, publicly called on Omar to apologize for her tweets that critics claimed repeated anti-Semitic tropes. The tweets in question, which have since been removed, appeared to suggest that Republicans’ support for Israel is driven by money. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar wrote at the time.
Privately, however, Pelosi lent a hand to Omar, and the two had conversations about the situation, according to the book.
“[Pelosi] wasn’t depriving me of the agency of being able to understand the gravity of whatever was happening,” Omar told Page, adding that the House speaker was polite and did not boss her around, the Politico excerpt said.
The lawmakers have kept up their alliance. Pelosi endorsed Omar for her 2020 reelection, and Omar voted for Pelosi as House speaker for this year’s new Congress.