WASHINGTON (CN) – House lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a resolution denouncing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry after weeks of debate over comments made by Democratic Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar about Israel.
The 407-23 vote took place in the midst of controversy surrounding Omar’s criticisms of America’s close ties to Israel, spurred by bipartisan condemnation of a few of Omar’s tweets and statements as anti-Semitic.
Many representatives of Omar’s own party spoke out against her remarks, but some progressives balked at the idea that the freshman congresswoman’s views were anything more than legitimate criticisms of close ties to a foreign power.
While Representative Jerrod Nadler, D-N.Y, didn’t name Omar in his opening statements Thursday, he denounced the so-called anti-Semitic comments from his colleagues in the House as “deeply offensive.” Representative Jeremy Raskin, D-Md., called on Americans to reject bigoted tropes as “the common enemy of liberal democracy.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi largely echoed her colleagues, but said the debate over elements of the U.S.-Israel relationship is a “separate and complete issue from anti-Semitism.” No progressive supporters of Omar spoke before the vote.
Some Republicans lobbed criticism at the “rushed” resolution they claim dilutes a message of zero-tolerance for anti-Semitism by including a litany of other forms of prejudice.
Representative Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, was among the 23 lawmakers to vote against the resolution, expressing displeasure that the language eventually included all forms of hatred, rather than just bigotry towards Jews. Iowa Republican Steve King abstained.
In his own heated statements, Georgia Republican Representative Doug Collins said, “I don’t know where to begin, I really don’t. For the second time in eight weeks, I am here with my friend from New York debating a resolution all of us learned in kindergarten. Be nice. Don’t hate.” Back in February, Omar tweeted a line from a Puff Daddy song — “all about the Benjamins”–in an effort to call out wealthy lobbying organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that fund Republicans supporting Israel. It was a response to a tweet by journalist Glenn Greenwald that highlighted a GOP lawmaker’s wish to punish Omar and others for criticizing Israel.
The tweets immediately drew bipartisan ire, with Democrats and Republicans coming down hard on Omar for allegedly perpetuating anti-Jewish stereotypes.
Omar apologized for the tweets, but was put under fire again for comments she made at a Washington, D.C. town hall for progressive lawmakers. Talking about political influence, Omar asked the audience why it’s “OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policies?”
Democrats like House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel pushed Omar to apologize again for her comments, but Omar stood firm against the new round of backlash. A few of her progressive colleagues, like Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib, supported the lawmaker from Minnesota, calling the criticism a bullseye specifically targeting a Muslim congresswoman.
Speaker Pelosi did not ask for another apology from Omar on Thursday, but said she does “not believe that [Omar] understood the full weight of her words.”
The dissent within the party has been overshadowing Democratic business, causing conflict within the party that some see as a threat to the massive election reform bill, House Resolution 1, going to a vote Friday.