The passage Thursday of a broad anti-bigotry resolution that exposed chasms in the Democratic caucus regarding Israel marked a coup of sorts for a tight-knit band of House freshmen who – in a matter of hours – were able to shift the spotlight away from embattled Rep. Ilhan Omar’s allegedly anti-Semitic remarks and refocus on issues like Islamophobia and pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.
“The week was supposed to start off with a rebuke of Omar's anti-Semitic comments and it ended up turning into a long list of other hateful actions,” House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told Fox News on Friday, saying the final product “fell short of addressing the real problem.”
The House resolution, following a week of Democratic infighting over the language, was approved on a 407-23 vote. The measure originally was drafted in response to Omar, a freshman Democrat from Minnesota, suggesting last week that Israel supporters want U.S. lawmakers to pledge “allegiance” to the Jewish state – which was widely condemned as echoing the age-old “dual loyalties” smear against Jewish politicians.
Yet after Speaker Nancy Pelosi faced a rebellion in the ranks amid concerns the resolution would unfairly single out Omar, a Muslim, and increase security threats against her (she was recently the subject of an inflammatory poster at the West Virginia capitol falsely tying her to the 9/11 attacks), the resolution was overhauled.
The result was a broad rebuke of bigotry, including anti-Semitism as well as “anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities” perpetrated by white supremacists and others. The resolution condemned “dual loyalty” accusations, but did not mention Omar by name.
After its passage, Omar and her allies were able to cheer the resolution as a win against Islamophobia.
“Today is historic on many fronts. It’s the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning Anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation’s history. Anti-Muslim crimes have increased 99% from 2014-2016 and are still on the rise,” Omar, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. André Carson, D-Ind., said in a joint statement. “We are tremendously proud to be part of a body that has put forth a condemnation of all forms of bigotry including anti-Semitism, racism, and white supremacy. At a time when extremism is on the rise, we must explicitly denounce religious intolerance of all kinds and acknowledge the pain felt by all communities.”
On the sidelines, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign began fundraising, claiming AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) was “coming after” her, Omar and Tlaib for questioning American foreign policy. The fundraising message cited a recent quote from an AIPAC activist predicting the three freshmen “will not be around in several years.”
Further, Ocasio-Cortez sought to turn the tables on the 23 Republican members who opposed the resolution, suggesting a double-standard was at play.
“Where’s the outrage over the 23 GOP members who voted NO on a resolution condemning bigotry today? Oh, there’s none?” she tweeted. “Did they get called out, raked over, ambushed in halls and relentlessly asked why not? No? Okay. Got it.”
Those who voted against the resolution, though, said they did so out of concern it was watered down.
“It was spineless ... it was unfortunately filled with moral equivalency and double standards,” Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., who is Jewish, told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney said in a statement that the resolution vote “was a sham put forward by Democrats to avoid condemning one of their own and denouncing vile anti-Semitism.”
But the developments of the past week underscored the rising influence of some of the chamber’s newest members and their allies, whose objections helped reshape what was essentially a rebuke of one of them into a message every member in the caucus could support.
And it pointed to emerging divisions and disagreements inside the party unlikely to resolve soon.
During debate on the House floor over the resolution, Rep. Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat, slammed party leaders for hesitating to sharply condemn Omar, and remarked that supporting language condemning anti-Semitism "shouldn’t be this hard."
"Why are we unable to singularly condemn anti-Semitism?" Deutch asked. "It feels like we're only able to call out the use of anti-Semitic language by a colleague of ours -- any colleague of ours -- if we're addressing all forms of hatred. It feels like we can't say it's anti-Semitism unless everyone agrees it's anti-Semitism."
Ocasio-Cortez, though, said that Democratic women of color "are being treated differently" and "targeted."
Scalise on Friday once again called for Pelosi to remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee, a step party leaders have been reluctant to take.
“Clearly, Speaker Pelosi is afraid of some of the fringe elements on the socialist left, and that was on full display this week,” he told Fox News.
Pelosi told reporters Thursday that the debate was not about Omar, but about all forms of hatred. Asked Thursday if Omar should apologize, Pelosi said, “It’s up to her to explain,” adding, “I do not believe that she understood the full weight of the words.”
Fox News’ Gregg Re and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.