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Progressives Double Down on Promoting Ilhan Omar Amid GOP Threats

Newsweek 12/8/2022 Simone Carter
At left, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks during a press conference outside the DFL Headquarters on August 5, 2020 in St Paul, Minnesota. At right, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks during his weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on February 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. © Stephen Maturen/Getty; Mark Wilson/Getty At left, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks during a press conference outside the DFL Headquarters on August 5, 2020 in St Paul, Minnesota. At right, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks during his weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on February 27, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar announced on Thursday that she's been elected as the deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). The promotion comes as the GOP is gunning to strip the Democrat from a committee.

Omar, who had served as a whip on the caucus for the past two terms, said she is "thrilled" about the new role. She'll work closely alongside Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the caucus.

The Minnesota Democrat noted some of the accomplishments rolled out by the CPC, including their push for student debt cancellation and an eviction moratorium extension.

"In the face of Republican threats to our democracy and our humanity, we will need to be clear-eyed and organized in the term ahead," Omar said in a statement released Thursday. "We will need a legislative strategy to stop the most egregious cuts. We will need a messaging strategy that uses our bully pulpit to push back against their agenda. And we will need a political strategy to elect and reelect progressive champions."

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The news comes shortly after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy renewed his vow to ax Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, should he be elected speaker. He noted in a recent tweet that he would aim to ditch the progressive politician partly because of certain "antisemitic" comments.

"Last year, I promised that when I became Speaker, I would remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee based on her repeated anti-Semitic and anti-American remarks," McCarthy said in the November 19 tweet. "I'm keeping that promise."

The following day, the House Republican leader was asked about his plans during an appearance on Fox News.

Omar isn't the only lawmaker on McCarthy's list. Should he become House speaker, he plans on also removing California Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from their spots on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

"I'll keep that promise," the California Republican told Fox host Maria Bartiromo on November 20.

The following day, Omar clapped back at McCarthy's threat in a statement posted to Twitter.

"McCarthy's effort to repeatedly single me out for scorn and hatred – including threatening to strip me from my committee – does nothing to address the issues our constituents deal with," the November 21 statement said in part. "It does nothing to address inflation, healthcare, or solve the climate crisis."

Newsweek reported in late November that most House Republicans appear to favor McCarthy as the next House Speaker. They voted in a recent secret ballot 188-31 to elevate him to the position.

After the GOP narrowly secured control of the House during the midterms, President Joe Biden congratulated McCarthy on his party's victory.

Democratic strategist Colin Strother told Newsweek in light of Omar's announcement that the CPC hasn't "been one to be overly focused on being successful on the hill." Instead, he said, they appear more concerned with "raising hell and getting attention for themselves."

As far as McCarthy's threat of removing Omar from the committee, he added: "They'll all be raising money off of it before sundown."

He continued: "Removing someone from committee assignments is a pretty extraordinary step...It's been very, very rare that that has occurred, but you know, McCarthy is an extremist on the other side, and he's playing to his base, and he'll be raising money off this as well."

A representative for Omar directed Newsweek back to the original announcement.

Newsweek reached out to representatives for Jayapal and McCarthy for comment.

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