Washington – Fractious House Democrats on Thursday came together and voted unanimously for a resolution that condemned “anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and other forms of bigotry.”
The resolution also “acknowledges the dangerous consequences of perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes” and “rejects anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”
The vote on the resolution, which was delayed to include Latinos to its list of “traditionally persecuted peoples” targeted by white supremacists, was a reaction to the uproar caused by Minnesota freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar’s criticism of Israel.
Republicans seized on Omar’s comments and demanded censure, pointing to the punishment meted out to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, after he questioned why the terms white supremacist and white nationalist were offensive. To head off a political firestorm that threatened to derail the Democratic agenda, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism.
But Democrats were split over the wording of the resolution and in a spirited caucus meeting on Wednesday, several lawmakers, including Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, protested the evolving resolution was being pushed too quickly by Pelosi to the floor.
“My comments were about the process we are using when concerns arise,” Hayes said in a statement. “As a member of Congress, I should not get important information from cable news.”
The vote on the measure was 407-23. Every Democrat, including Omar, voted for it and all opposed to the resolution are Republican. King voted “present.”
“I don’t think anybody saying something anti-Semitic is okay,” Hayes said after the vote.
Democrats are betting that the vote on the resolution will put the issue to bed.
“I hope it puts this whole episode behind us,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-5th District.
Rep. John Larson D-1st District, said the vote on the resolution was “common sense.”
“I think it’s’ important as a teaching tool,” Larson said. “Whether its anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia…there’s no place for it and this was the right vehicle.”
Omar, who is Muslim, provoked the contentious debate by criticizing “people who push for allegiance to a foreign country” in comments she made in a Washington D.C. coffee shop last week.
For many, that comment played off of the “dual loyalty” accusations that have been used to harass and persecute Jews throughout history.
Thursday was the second time the U.S. House voted to condemn anti-Semitism as a rebuke of Omar, although she is not named in either resolution. The first time was in response to tweets about Jewish money and influence on American politics.
Omar apologized for her tweets, but not for the comments she made last week.
After the vote, Omar avoided reporters, but issued a statement with three other Muslim lawmakers, Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich: “It’s the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning Anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation’s history,” the three Democrats said.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-2nd District, said it was not important to censure Omar in the resolution.
“The issue for me is we’re not condoning anti-Semitism or anti-Muslim sentiment,” she said.
The flap over Omar’s comments exposed differences in the Democratic caucus, with younger, more liberal Democrats more willing to criticize Israel.
“To criticize (Israeli Prime Minister) Bibi Netanyahu does not make you anti-Semitic,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the co-sponsor of the resolution, who is Jewish.
Raskin also said the debate over the resolution “has been a very difficult process for the caucus, but also a very healthy one.”
Republicans, even those who voted for the resolution, criticized that it had been expanded to take the focus off anti-Semitism – and Omar.
“Let’s be honest, we are here today because of rhetoric said by one member or this chamber, again and again and again,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y. “If that member had been a Republican, that member’s name would be in this resolution and this resolution would be all about condemning anti-Semitism, and it would be done so forcefully.”
President Donald Trump tweeted “It is shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference. Anti-Semitism has fueled atrocities throughout history and it’s inconceivable they will not act to condemn it!”
Himes shot back with his own tweet that said “Guy who says there were “good people on both sides” of a Nazi march weighs in. And, as usual, lies….”