Dem frustrations over Omar boil over on both sides

Frustration among House Democrats simmered on Wednesday over Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarAmash readying legislation allowing victims to sue officers Democrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd Black Caucus member unveils bill to create commission addressing legacy of slavery MORE's (D-Minn.) criticism of Israel, with lawmakers questioning how they should respond to the latest controversy surrounding the freshman lawmaker.

Progressive lawmakers and members of key minority caucuses argued that voting on a resolution implicitly aimed at Omar — one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress — played into GOP hands trying to exacerbate Democratic divisions.

“I think it's inappropriate to just focus on one person. I absolutely do,” said Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassDemocrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd Black Caucus member unveils bill to create commission addressing legacy of slavery House Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

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Bass also said the spotlight on Omar was creating real-world security risks for the freshman lawmaker.

“I also think, frankly, that it puts her at risk to focus on her. You know, she's already received death threats,” Bass said.

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate Democrats press OSHA official on issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard MORE (D-Wash.), a Progressive Caucus leader, expressed frustration that the focus on Omar’s remarks was making it easier for Republicans to sow divisions among Democrats.

“We are now in the majority and the Republicans have an intent to try to divide us whenever they can. So what processes can we as a caucus put in place so that we don't help them to do that?” Jayapal said

Other Democrats believe that Omar should be held accountable for her comments. 

“I disagree with what was said. And I think there should be an apology,” said Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), a freshman who represents a swing district.

House Democratic leaders began crafting a resolution over the weekend to condemn anti-Semitism in the wake of Omar's latest comments. Wednesday's meeting offered the first caucus-wide discussion since that measure began circulating.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump praises 'domination' of DC protesters Pelosi, Schumer say treatment of protesters outside White House 'dishonors every value that faith teaches us' Democrats call for Congress to take action following death of George Floyd MORE (D-Calif.) acknowledged during the closed-door meeting that “we have some internal issues,” according to a Democratic aide, but advised lawmakers: “Don't question the motivations of our colleagues.”

She sought to downplay the internal divisions and blamed the media for hyping them.

“If you say the bacon is not crispy enough, they'll have an article about this unrest and unease in the Democratic Party,” Pelosi said.

Staff for Democratic leaders began drafting the resolution over the weekend, after House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump mobilizes military against 'angry mob,' holds controversial photo op Engel primary challenger drops out, endorses fellow challenger House, Senate panels to question ousted State Dept. inspector general on Wednesday: report MORE (D-N.Y.) issued a statement accusing Omar of “invoking a vile anti-Semitic slur.”

A vote had initially been expected on Wednesday, but aides said Democratic leaders have pushed it back as they make changes to the resolution to make it more inclusive and broadly condemn hate, including Islamophobia. 

The House could vote as soon as Thursday, but a plan has not been finalized.

“There are ongoing discussions with all of the stakeholders within the House Democratic Caucus about the appropriate way to proceed,” caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesHarris, Jeffries question why Manafort, Cohen released while others remain in prison Gun control group rolls out House endorsements Pelosi: George Floyd death is 'a crime' MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters. 

A draft resolution began circulating on Monday that did not specifically name Omar, but states that the House “rejects anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.” The resolution did state that “accusations of dual loyalty generally have an insidious, bigoted history.”

During an event last week at the Busboys and Poets restaurant in Washington, D.C., Omar said critics were making accusations of anti-Semitism in bad faith.

“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Omar said. “I want to ask, why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the [National Rifle Association] NRA, of fossil-fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby that is influencing policy?”

Omar attended the caucus meeting on Wednesday but did not make remarks, according to attendees.

Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyHillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers Democrats call on FTC to investigate allegations of TikTok child privacy violations Hillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns MORE (D-Ill.), who is Jewish, said Omar has personally apologized to her for past remarks. The House adopted a similar measure condemning anti-Semitism last month after Omar apologized for suggesting that U.S. lawmakers defending Israel were motivated by money.

Schakowsky suggested that Democrats should keep their disagreements off of social media.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezNew York City issues Monday night curfew amid protests Engel primary challenger drops out, endorses fellow challenger Trump says he will designate antifa a terrorist organization MORE (D-N.Y.) defended Omar on Twitter and went after Rep. Juan VargasJuan C. VargasActivists, analysts demand Congress consider immigrants in coronavirus package Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pence taps health official to aid coronavirus response MORE (D-Calif.) for saying that “questioning support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is unacceptable.”

And Omar had doubled down on her comments in response to a tweet from House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyJulián Castro launches PAC to support progressive candidates Lawmakers call on VA to remove swastikas from headstones in veterans cemeteries House Democrats object to Trump sending ventilators to Russia MORE (D-N.Y.), who had called her remarks “hurtful.”

“I do not believe that Ilhan Omar is anti-Semitic. And I absolutely believe that she has become, as a result [of the comments], a target. I think the Republicans love that, and frankly, I think media loves to exploit the divisions. And I think we can do better in how we express ourselves. I think we ought to stay off of social media to have these conversations,” Schakowsky said.