Freshman Democratic Reps. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarEnough with the GDP — it's time to measure genuine progress Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats eye potential carbon price in reconciliation bill 'Squad' members call on Biden to shut down Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota MORE (Minn.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDemocratic bill would force Fed to defund fossil fuels Democrats brace for battle on Biden's .5 trillion spending plan 'Squad' members call on Biden to shut down Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota MORE (Mich.), the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, are drawing fire from Republicans in their first weeks since taking office.
House GOP leaders condemned the appointment of Omar, a Minnesota progressive, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, pointing to her past criticism of Israel.
Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) moved last week to try to block Tlaib, who represents a district that includes part of Detroit, from leading a delegation to Palestine. That came after Tlaib drew GOP ire within 24 hours of taking the oath of office this month with a fiery call to “impeach the motherf---r."
Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinGovernors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight Republicans hit Biden over Afghanistan, with eye on midterms McCarthy: 'There will be a day of reckoning' for Biden MORE (R-N.Y.), who is Jewish, unveiled a resolution this week stating that the House “rejects anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred.” It specifically cites Tlaib’s and Omar’s support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which is critical of the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians.
Republicans say their criticism has nothing to do with religion or race, but that it’s been hard to ignore what they view as extreme positions from the two freshmen.
Zeldin, who acknowledged this week that he had yet to meet either Tlaib or Omar, said that the repeated incidents motivated him to take the unusually personal step of introducing a resolution that calls out his colleagues.
“I've been rather discouraged that it's not just one thing that happens and then you can give them the benefit of the doubt. It's just, it's constant. Every single day you're reading about something new. They’re deliberately being provocative with rhetoric and positions,” Zeldin told The Hill.
Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, dismissed the notion that her views were anti-Semitic in a brief interview. She accused “right-wing folks” of targeting her because she's Muslim.
When asked what she thinks is motivating the scrutiny from Republicans, Tlaib replied: “Because I'm Muslim, Palestinian. I mean, I'm a human being here as a mom, as an advocate and all these things. And I'm an equal to them now.”
Zeldin offered a blistering response: “She is being attacked for shamefully targeting Israelis, Jews and others with a ton of hatred obviously consuming her heart. It is ironic that someone who loves the dual loyalty line of attack against supporters of Israel draped herself in a Palestinian flag on election night,” he said, referring to reports that Tlaib’s mother, a Palestinian immigrant, draped her in the flag at one point as she spoke at a victory party.
The attacks on Tlaib and Omar are unlikely to hurt their reelection efforts. Both represent deep-blue districts that are not considered competitive.
But the criticisms by Republicans dovetails with a GOP effort to paint the new Democratic majority as extreme, an argument Trump has sought to use in the public relations battle over the government shutdown.
House GOP leaders sharply criticized Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema Overnight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Democrats suffer blow on drug pricing as 3 moderates buck party MORE (D-Calif.) for appointing Omar to the Foreign Affairs Committee because of a 2012 tweet criticizing Israel amid the Gaza war.
“Anti-Semitism has no place in Congress and certainly not on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I am deeply disappointed in Speaker Pelosi’s choice, a choice that threatens the Committee’s long history of bipartisan support for Israel," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Top Democrats tout California recall with an eye toward 2022 Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race MORE (R-Calif.) said.
In the 2012 tweet, Omar wrote: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel”
Omar backtracked earlier this week in response to a New York Times opinion writer's column criticizing her past remarks. She had previously defended her comments in an interview with CNN.
“It’s now apparent to me that I spent lots of energy putting my 2012 tweet in context and little energy is disavowing the anti-semitic trope I unknowingly used, which is unfortunate and offensive,” Omar tweeted.
But Omar, a Somali refugee, said her comments should be interpreted as criticism of a government and not of its people.
“With that said, it is important to distinguish between criticizing a military action by a government and attacking a particular people of faith,” she wrote. “I will not shy away of criticism of any government when I see injustice — whether it be Saudi Arabia, Somalia, even our own government!”
Tlaib, meanwhile, has repeatedly doubled down in the face of critics.
Some fellow Democrats called Tlaib's impeachment comments earlier this month “inappropriate.” But Tlaib refused to apologize, with her office releasing a statement saying that, "The Congresswoman absolutely believes [Trump] needs to be impeached."
Republicans have also criticized Tlaib's comments about a Senate bill that would permit state and local governments to ban contracts for firms that support a boycott of Israel. Tlaib wrote that supporters of that bill “forget what country they represent” and were seeking to “strip Americans of their Constitutional right to free speech.”
Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization MORE (R-Fla.), in response, accused her of promoting a “typical anti-Semitic line” about dual loyalties.
Tlaib responded to Rubio by stating that it was clear her criticism was of the senators backing the Senate bill, and accused him of inventing a controversy to distract from the shutdown.
Then last week, Babin wrote letters to committee chairmen asking to prevent Tlaib from going on a congressional delegation to Palestine due to her views toward Israel.
Babin said Tlaib’s comments about impeaching Trump were evidence of “personal vitriol” and warned of “the damage that a yet unexperienced and overly caustic Member of Congress may cause to Israeli relations, or the perceptions of our own Jewish-American citizens.”
Babin said he took the step of calling to block a colleague's travel because he thinks her views are extreme.
“Advocating a policy that our enemies are advocating, any of our adversaries, of divestiture, boycotting of one of our best allies, Israel. I think that gets your attention when you hear something like that,” Babin said in an interview.
Tlaib defended her planned trip and took a swipe at Babin in return.
“The trip to Palestine is to show my fellow colleagues how life is for Palestinians,” Tlaib said in a statement. “This is an essential aspect to ensure we are making well-rounded decisions on legislation that may impact them, including protections of civil rights and equality for all people — something Congressman Babin may have an issue with comprehending.”
In addition, Tlaib has repeatedly attacked “right wing media” in recent weeks amid coverage of her views on Israel.
Tlaib tweeted on Tuesday that “right wing media” is harassing her sister by calling her personal cellphone and showing up at her workplace.
“I ran for office, not her. She may be one of the reasons I fight back so hard against racist policies, but she doesn't deserve being harassed,” Tlaib wrote on Twitter.
And she tweeted last week: “Right wing media targeting me again rather than focusing on the President's reckless government shutdown. Yes, I am Muslim and Palestinian. Get over it.”