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Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar is ousted from the House Foreign Affairs Committee

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

In the ever-growing universe of partisan issues dividing the current Congress, the matter of committee assignments has reentered the chat. Today, on a party-line vote, Republicans ousted Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from the House foreign affairs panel, but not before she made defiant remarks to the chamber.

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ILHAN OMAR: My leadership and voice will not be diminished if I am not on this committee for one term. My voice will get louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world as it has been.

SUMMERS: It comes after Omar made and then apologized for controversial remarks and after two Republican members were kicked off of committees back when Democrats were in charge of the House.

NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales is here with more. Hey there.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: So, Claudia, I've heard this was a pretty passionate debate on the House floor. How did Democrats defend Congresswoman Omar?

GRISALES: They said this was revenge for booting Republicans off committees when they were in charge of the chamber. And yes, with every Democratic speaker, the emotional temperature raised in the chamber, including with Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib. She was being gaveled out during her remarks.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The gentlewoman's time has expired.

RASHIDA TLAIB: To Congresswoman Omar, (crying) I am so sorry, sis...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The gentlewoman's time has expired.

TLAIB: ...That our country is failing you today through this chamber. You belong on that committee.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The gentlewoman is no longer recognized, and...

GRISALES: So there's a little bit of crosstalk there, but she's saying there that Omar should be on this committee, that the country is failing her today through this chamber and that she's sorry. And this is a move by Republicans, tied to Omar's 2019 tweets on Israel that she later apologized for. And Omar, for her part, said if anyone would be surprised that she's somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy or that she's seen as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced. And she said, quote, "when you push power, power pushes back," and that representation matters.

SUMMERS: OK. So that was the Democratic argument. But what about Republicans? What have their arguments been for removing Omar from this committee?

GRISALES: Right. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said, despite Omar's apology, he and other Republicans have said these remarks were anti-Semitic and that should have ended her role on this particular committee.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: We're not removing her from other committees. We just do not believe, when it comes to foreign affairs - especially the responsibility of that position around the world with the comments that you make.

GRISALES: And so right now, he says he's in talks with the Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, as well to form a bipartisan group of members to address a code of conduct - requirements that could be installed for this and future sessions of Congress. But we should note, House Republicans have also blocked Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell for another set of reasons from the House Intelligence Committee.

SUMMERS: And Claudia, how do Republicans reconcile what's happened here with allowing their own members who have made controversial remarks who are now sitting on House panels?

GRISALES: Yes. Democrats had kicked Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene and Arizona's Paul Gosar off all committees when they were in charge of the chamber. Some would argue they were already punished for their remarks, losing roles on all of their committees. But McCarthy was asked specifically about Taylor Greene. This week, she made controversial remarks concerning Ashli Babbitt. This was a woman who was killed during the January 6 attack on the Capitol. She called it murder. McCarthy differed with that claim and said a police officer was doing his job that day.

In response to another question about Taylor Greene, he said, is she on foreign affairs or the Intelligence Committee? - and that he made his case that she is not. And he also reiterated Omar and other Democrats were blocked from specific committees but they can serve on other panels.

SUMMERS: NPR's Claudia Grisales, thank you so much.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.