House Democrats spent Wednesday scrambling to put to bed a debate about anti-Semitism that no one wants after advancing a symbolic resolution condemning it that pleased no one.
The resolution, as it was initially conceived in the hours after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) made a second round of anti-Israel comments last week, would condemn anti-Semitism—a second public rebuke of the freshman lawmaker who has been in office less than 60 days.
But by midweek, faced with a backlash inside the Democratic Caucus, leaders appeared to change course, asking the House Foreign Affairs Committee to draft a resolution that rebuked “all hate.”
“We’ll see what the committee comes up with, I’m a big believer in the committee system this is their jurisdiction, they have an array of concerns, priorities they are addressing,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters, adding that the resolution was not targeted at Omar’s comments.
Members involved in crafting the resolution have already been hit with requests from the offices of Democratic lawmakers for specific groups to be included in the resolution. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who is Hindu, reached out to top Democrats to ask that Hindus be specifically mentioned in any resolution condemning religious prejudice, sources said. Other members have suggested Catholics, Muslims, and all forms of racism should be added, too.
Asked if the resolution would be diluted as a result of the inclusion of so many groups, Pelosi replied, “What’s too broad about fighting hatred wherever it exists?”
Though top Democrats have condemned Omar’s latest comments—in which she implied that lawmakers who support Israel have an “allegiance to a foreign country”—most members bristled at the idea of publicly reprimanding her through a resolution, even if it did not mention her by name.
By Wednesday afternoon, several had taken to blaming the media for covering Omar’s remarks, claiming that racist and anti-Semitic actions and language from Republicans were being ignored.
“We have to do better across the board,” said Rep. Max Rose, a New York Democrat who has condemned Omar’s comments in the past. “We also have to acknowledge the incredible hypocrisy you all are showing – that I did not see you guys trailing [Rep. Kevin] McCarthy—over and over and over again, there has been an unequal treatment.”
The House voted last month to approve a symbolic resolution condemning anti-Semitism, which was pushed by Republicans after Omar was criticized in February for suggesting lawmakers had been bought by the Israel lobby. That measure, which passed overwhelmingly, only contributed to skepticism from some Democrats over the ongoing debate.
“We’ve already voted on it,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY). “Whatever we do, it’s going to look like we’re responding specifically to her, and to AIPAC,” he said, referring to the pro-Israel lobbying group
Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) conceded that some members felt Omar had been singled out for her comments and hinted the resolution might be more partisan than originally expected.
“Of all hate, all hate, all hate, all hate. Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, all that stuff,” Clyburn said, when asked whether the president’s rhetoric would be addressed in the legislation.
“We all know what the atmosphere in this country is right now, we have an occupant down at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that is poisoning the atmosphere of this country when it comes to minorities,” he said. “If you are a descendant of someone who came from the s-hole country, you pissed off about a lot of the stuff right about now and I happen to be the descendant of one of those groups.”
—With additional reporting by Erin Banco and Betsy Woodruff.