House Democrats had hoped to spend this week focused on HR 1, their sweeping voting rights and electoral reform bill. Instead, the party has descended into infighting in recent days over comments freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) made about Israel.
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Omar said at an event in Washington, D.C. last week, referring to lawmakers’ support for Israel and the lobbying power of groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
It was the rare remark that appeared to unite both parties, as both Republicans and Democrats expressed outrage over Omar’s comments in the days that followed.
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent Monday, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote, “Accusing Jews of having allegiance to a foreign government has long been a vile anti-Semitic slur that has been used to harass, marginalize, and persecute the Jewish people for centuries. Sometimes referred to as the ‘dual loyalty’ charge, it alleges that Jews should be suspected of being disloyal neighbors or citizens because their true allegiance is to their co-religionists around the world or to a secret and immoral Jewish agenda.”
By Monday evening, Democratic leadership, led by Pelosi, had begun to draft a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. The resolution did not mention Omar by name, but instead focused on the history of anti-Semitism in the United States. It specifically condemns the “myth of dual loyalty.”
The House was originally scheduled to vote on the resolution Wednesday.
In response to concerns among the party, however, the vote was delayed, and the resolution was reportedly changed to include condemnations of Islamophobia. On Wednesday night, the resolution morphed again to condemn “all hate.”
As Politico reported Monday night, the resolution has divided the caucus. A bloc of senior Jewish lawmakers, some of them powerful committee chairs, have demanded Omar apologize for her remarks. Some of them reportedly did not think the original resolution went far enough.
On the other side, many members of the Congressional Black Caucus and progressive Omar allies have argued that Omar is being singled out unfairly, and they say they don’t want to vote on any resolution.
Whatever version of the resolution comes to the floor, it’s unlikely Democrats will vote unanimously on the measure.
The House is set to vote on the revised measure Thursday.
In an email to ThinkProgress sent Wednesday, Jeremy Slevin, a spokesperson for Omar, said Omar feels remorse for the pain her comments have caused.
“As she said in her apology, we must distinguish between criticism of a particular faith and fair critiques of lobbying groups,” Slevin said. “She has consistently spoken out about the undue influence of lobbying groups for foreign interests of all kinds and her comments were about just that. To suggest otherwise is an inaccurate reading of her remarks.”
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has pounced on the back and forth within the Democratic Party, tweeting this week, “It is shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference. Anti-Semitism has fueled atrocities throughout history and it’s inconceivable they will not act to condemn it!”
Trump himself has come under fire for anti-Semitic remarks, as well as his refusal to immediately and forcefully disavow white supremacy following an attack at a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville in 2017 which left one woman dead.