Omar allies dig in on calls for Boebert punishment
House liberals are charging ahead with efforts to discipline Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) for her incendiary comments targeting a Muslim colleague, arguing that the response thus far from Democratic leaders — a promised vote on a bill to fight Islamophobia globally — lets her off the hook too easily.
“Not enough,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), a first-term lawmaker from the Bronx and ally of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the target of Boebert’s remarks. “We are in the majority; we have a responsibility to act; and we’re going to continue to push leadership to do just that.”
Behind Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), the progressives are urging swift action on a resolution to strip Boebert of her committee assignments, as Democrats did earlier in the year with GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.), two conservative firebrands who promoted violent imagery or rhetoric against Democratic lawmakers.
Boebert, by contrast, did not explicitly advertise violence against Omar. But her suggestion that the Minnesota Democrat, one of only three Muslim lawmakers in Congress, poses a danger of terrorist violence has been followed by death threats against the Somali refugee. Those, in turn, are fueling the liberal campaign to yank Boebert from her committee assignments.
“There is no question that when another member suggested that [Omar] was a suicide bomber … that endangered her life,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), while condemning Boebert’s comments in harsh terms, has declined to endorse the proposal to remove her from her committee assignments. Instead, she’s scheduled a vote on another bill, sponsored by Omar, creating a special State Department office charged with identifying and confronting anti-Muslim violence around the globe, including any state-sponsored campaigns deemed to fit that category.
The bill passed through the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday and is scheduled to hit the floor on Tuesday.
“It is more urgent than ever that the U.S. do all it can to combat anti-Muslim hate,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), another lead sponsor of the bill, said in a statement following Friday’s markup.
Omar’s allies hailed the decision to prioritize that legislation before the long winter recess — “Should have been done months ago,” Bowman said — but also warned it will not slow their push to discipline Boebert directly.
“It’s not ‘or.’ It’s ‘and,'” Pressley told The Hill on Friday. “We have to address the hate that’s being trafficked within the halls of Congress, in addition to doing that work globally.”
“She should be stripped of her committees,” Pressley added. “If we do not have that accountability, we only embolden this kind of hate.”
Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), another Muslim lawmaker, has been leading the negotiations with Pelosi and other party leaders in search of a resolution on the Boebert affair. He said it remains unclear if the vote on Omar’s anti-Muslim bill is leadership’s last word, but he’s in talks to ensure that it’s not.
“We don’t know yet — I can’t say definitively — but I remain hopeful,” Carson said Thursday. “There could be [more to come]. That’s my hope.”
Democrats have identified several reasons they hesitate to subject Boebert to the same punishment applied to Greene and Gosar.
Party leaders are concerned, aides and lawmakers said, that doing so would make her a martyr in the eyes of GOP’s conservative base, expanding the reach of her anti-Muslim message and boosting her ability to raise money on the campaign trial.
There are also lingering Democratic concerns that GOP leaders will retaliate by stripping Democrats from committee posts if Republicans win back control of the House after next year’s midterms.
Additionally, Democrats are hoping to pile peak pressure on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and other GOP leaders to discipline Boebert unilaterally, as they did with former Rep. Steve King in 2019, when they removed the Iowa Republican from his committee posts for defending white supremacy. McCarthy and his team, however, have declined to denounce Boebert’s comments, arguing that she’s apologized already and that Democrats should accept it and move on.
“In America that’s what we do, and then we move on to the issues that need to take place,” he said earlier in the month.
As Democratic leaders weigh their options in the face of a shrinking legislative calendar, there are signs that Tuesday’s scheduled vote combating global Islamophobia has eased some of the internal tensions within the caucus.
Earlier this week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) knocked leadership for dragging its feet in punishing Boebert, calling the delay an “embarrassment.”
But just two days later, after leadership announced the vote, Ocasio-Cortez appeared to back off, saying a number of options “are being entertained” and she would defer to both Omar and leadership to figure out what comes next.
“I do think that we should address what happened,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters Thursday. “Now, what tool is used, what instrument is used, that’s up to both Rep. Omar and leadership.”
Scott Wong contributed.
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