According to HuffPost, the Democratic House leadership has pulled a resolution condemning anti-Semitism after rank-and-file members in their caucus raised an outcry over it, claiming it was unfairly aimed at one of their members, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California reportedly took considerable heat from the party’s more progressive members in the House during the first Democratic caucus meeting of this class of Congress, causing her to at first delay a vote on the matter. Eventually the hue and cry resulted in Pelosi’s number two, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, announcing that the resolution was being pulled and that there was no date set for a vote. Hoyer added that the language of the resolution was being redrafted to include condemnation of all kinds of hatred, including anti-Islamic sentiment.
The aborted resolution was purportedly crafted as a rebuke of anti-Semitism in general, but most observers noted that the timing and the language of it appeared to aim it squarely at Rep. Omar. This came after she made some comments critical of what she sees as the outsized influence of the Israeli lobby, largely led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) over congressmembers’ decision-making and votes.
According to reports, the behind-closed-doors meeting grew heated, with numerous freshman members of the Democratic caucus questioning why suddenly they were being asked to support a resolution condemning hate speech now. The representatives reportedly asked where the outrage was over anti-Semitic comments made by President Donald Trump, or racist comments that are routinely made by other Republicans, like Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
The brouhaha among the Democrats was exacerbated by members’ complaints that Rep. Pelosi and the leadership hadn’t made the language of the resolution available for them to review before asking them to support it. Some members said they only found out about it via CNN.
“My only comment was, I don’t want to hear about, as a member of Congress, important issues from cable news,” said freshman Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), according to sources who were present at the meeting.
Those same sources said that Rep. Pelosi took Rep. Hayes’ comment as an affront, and gave her a snappy retort before walking out of the meeting, which was breaking up anyway.
“Well, if you’re not going to listen to me, I’m done talking,” Pelosi said.
Presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was among the first politicians to unequivocally come out in support of Rep. Omar, and in opposition to the House leadership’s heavy-handed rebuke of her. He pointed out that while anti-Semitism is “a real and dangerous ideology,” equating it with “legitimate criticism of the right-wing Netanyahu government in Israel” is not the correct response either.
“We must develop an even-handed Middle East policy which brings Israelis and Palestinians together for a lasting peace,” Sanders said. “What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate. That’s wrong.”