Pressure grows to remove Boebert from committees
Pressure is growing on House Democratic leaders to make Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) the third GOP lawmaker this year removed from their committees over her Islamophobic attacks against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
Democratic leaders discussed a possible resolution broadly condemning Islamophobia earlier this week. But that might not be enough for nearly 40 progressive allies of Omar, as well as multiple caucus leaders, who are now openly calling for a repeat of the action taken against fellow far-right Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.).
Omar said Sunday that she thinks Boebert should be removed from House committees and expects Democratic leadership to make a decision in the coming days.
“I have had a conversation with the Speaker, and I’m very confident that she will take decisive action next week,” Omar said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “As you know, when I first got to Congress, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be allowed to be sworn in because there was a ban on the hijab. She promised me that she would take care of it. She fulfilled that promise. She’s made another promise to me that she will take care of this.”
“I think it’s important for us to say, this kind of language, this kind of hate cannot be condoned by the House of Representatives,” Omar added.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), one of Omar’s closest progressive allies in Congress, expressed frustration that Democratic leaders still haven’t acted against Boebert.
“It’s embarrassing that there is any hesitation on this. How can we have different consequences for different kinds of bigotry or incitement? This should be treated equally and consistently. Incite against a member and you’re stripped. End of story. She refuses to even apologize,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Friday.
“It’s a pretty simple question: does the House accept violent Islamophobia or not?” she continued. “We should feel ashamed every time @IlhanMN or anyone is forced to defend themselves against threats in their workplace alone [because] the institutions they serve in won’t protect them. It’s messed up.”
It’s a pretty simple question: does the House accept violent Islamophobia or not?
We should feel ashamed every time @IlhanMN or anyone is forced to defend themselves against threats in their workplace alone bc the institutions they serve in won’t protect them. It’s messed up.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 3, 2021
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), the first Democrat to publicly call for removing Boebert from committees, said a measure to formally condemn anti-Muslim hatred would be “a good thing” and “obviously something that we should do.”
But Bowman said Democrats shouldn’t stop there, even after the moves against Gosar and Greene drew vocal pushback from most Republicans.
“Personally, I think there need to be consequences directed at Congresswoman Boebert specifically,” he told The Hill.
The push for Democrats to take punitive action against Boebert has grown in part because House GOP leaders have still not directly condemned her comments — which surfaced over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend — suggesting that Omar could be a suicide bomber.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Friday that he wouldn’t move to take Boebert off committees like he did with former Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in 2019 because “she apologized publicly and she apologized personally.”
“Let me be very clear. This party is for anyone and everyone who craves freedom and supports religious liberty,” McCarthy said at a press conference in the Capitol. “Lauren Boebert apologized publicly and then picked up the phone, and it took a lot of effort.”
Boebert did initially issue a tweet apologizing “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar,” and saying that she was reaching out to Omar directly. But Boebert and Omar both said that when they spoke over the phone this past Monday, the conversation quickly went off the rails.
Omar still doesn’t think Boebert’s actions amount to an apology.
“Boebert never apologized to @IlhanMN privately or publicly and explicitly refused to do so on the phone, instead calling Rep. Omar ‘anti-American,’ ” Jeremy Slevin, a spokesman for Omar, wrote on Twitter in response to McCarthy on Friday.
In a video posted to Instagram after the Monday call, Boebert doubled down on an Islamophobic trope by suggesting Omar sympathized with terrorists.
“Make no mistake, I will continue to fearlessly put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists. Unfortunately, Ilhan can’t say the same thing. And our country is worse off for it,” she said.
The next day, Bowman issued a statement calling for Boebert to be removed from her committee assignments. Another member of the progressive “squad,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), followed suit. By Wednesday, the leaders of the Progressive, Black, Asian Pacific American, Equality and Hispanic caucuses issued a joint statement endorsing kicking Boebert off her panels.
And on Thursday, the cohort grew with a joint statement signed by nearly 40 progressives.
“Our response to behavior that creates a dangerous work environment and furthers a climate of toxicity and intolerance cannot be silence. Congress cannot forgo accountability when a member engages in hate speech that dehumanizes not only a colleague, but an entire people,” they wrote.
Omar on Thursday tweeted out a study finding that more than 80 percent of American Muslims don’t think Islamophobia is taken seriously by civil society or corporate and political leaders.
“Congress’s silence and inaction on Anti-Muslim hate is telling,” she wrote.
The House ultimately wrapped up its session on Thursday evening upon passing legislation to avert a government shutdown, with no decisions made on what to do about Boebert.
During a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting on Wednesday, Pelosi condemned Boebert’s attack on Omar but didn’t specify what Democrats might do. “These people do not respect the House that they serve in. We have to make sure that the public understands that we do,” she said.
A spokesperson for Pelosi didn’t return a request for comment from The Hill about the push to remove Boebert from committees.
Looming over Democrats’ deliberations is the potential for payback if Republicans win the House majority. McCarthy has warned that Republicans might also remove some Democrats, including Omar, from committees over comments they’ve found objectionable.
That likelihood grows with every unilateral move that Democrats take to punish a Republican, even if it’s for extreme behavior they find too hateful to ignore.
Democrats — along with 11 Republicans — voted to remove Greene from committees in February over her past embrace of conspiracy theories, including QAnon and that some mass shootings were staged, as well as for appearing to endorse violence against Democrats.
And last month, Democrats removed Gosar from committees for posting an anime video that depicted him killing Ocasio-Cortez and swinging swords at President Biden. Democrats — as well as two Republicans — also took a rare step to censure Gosar, making him the first House member in more than a decade to face one of the chamber’s most severe rebukes.
With Boebert, proponents of removing her from committees argue that her Islamophobic comments directed at Omar aren’t an isolated incident.
Boebert has repeatedly referred to the progressive “squad” as the “jihad squad.” CNN also reported this week that she similarly suggested to a crowd in September that Omar, who she described as “black-hearted” and “evil,” was a terrorist.
And similar to her most recent remarks recalling an incident — which Omar says never happened — in which she encountered the Minnesota Democrat in a Capitol elevator, Boebert said: “She doesn’t have a backpack, she wasn’t dropping it and running, so we’re good.”
Bowman argued that removing Boebert from committees should be an act of conscience for Democrats, no matter the potential consequences under a House GOP majority.
“I believe in truth and decency and right and wrong. And I have faith in the American voter in determining the difference and in understanding the difference between someone doing something based on decency and right or wrong, and someone doing something based on being petty and retaliatory,” Bowman said.
“So, sure. If Republicans take control of the House, they can vote to remove certain people from their committees, and you know, they’ll do that and that’s what will be done. But I really feel strongly that voters, Democrat and Republican, are decent for the most part, and understand the difference between right and wrong, and really care about democracy and really care about moving the country forward in the right direction.”