House Postpones Vote On Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The House of Representatives was planning to vote on a measure that seemed automatic. It was a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. But the Democrats who control the House have delayed that vote. It's triggered debate because the resolution is considered an implied criticism of one of their own. Lawmakers drafted it after remarks by Minnesota lawmaker Ilhan Omar. She suggested that some Americans support Israel for money or out of allegiance to a foreign country. What do her constituents think? Here's Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio.
MATT SEPIC, BYLINE: A draft of the resolution does not name Omar, but it does condemn, quote, "the myth of dual loyalty" - an old anti-Semitic smear. There is no doubt that the language refers to comments Omar made at a Washington coffee shop last week. The Democrat, one of two Muslim women elected to Congress last fall, questioned why criticism of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee - or AIPAC - is beyond the bounds of public debate.
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ILHAN OMAR: I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask, why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries or big pharma and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy?
SEPIC: Blowback came quickly from across the ideological spectrum. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the dual loyalty trope insinuates that Jews are untrustworthy citizens and has been used to marginalize and persecute Jewish people for centuries. Omar's comments followed a tweet last month for which she apologized, saying that congressional support for Israel in the U.S. was, quote, "all about the Benjamins" - referring to $100 bills.
Omar has not responded to interview requests, but people who live in her district shared a variety of opinions. Patrick Scully (ph) of Minneapolis, a performance artist, says the freshman Democrat is being held to a higher standard than many in the GOP, including the president.
PATRICK SCULLY: There are Republicans who are making statements that are as objectionable or worse, and resolutions aren't being brought to the floor to condemn them for these statements.
SEPIC: Matthew Erickson (ph) is from St. Louis Park, an inner-ring suburb home to a large Jewish community. Erickson says he wants to see Omar succeed in Congress, but her rhetoric is frustrating to hear.
MATTHEW ERICKSON: As a Jewish constituent of hers, it's been really difficult, with her word choice and the language she's used, to talk about very important issues. But she continues to use anti-Semitic dog whistles and tropes. And she knows better at this point. And I just - I - I don't know where to go.
SEPIC: House Democratic leaders had originally planned to vote on the resolution for yesterday, but have delayed it after heated closed-door talks and strong pushback from the party's left flank. Many others are eager to move past the controversy. Omar's Democratic colleague, Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota, says in a statement that the situation is dividing Democrats, quote, "which is exactly what the Republican minority and President Trump are seeking to achieve." For NPR News, I'm Matt Sepic in Minneapolis.
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