Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday the House will vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, white supremacy and other forms of hate after freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar’s comments about Israel sparked turmoil among Democrats.
Pelosi said she does not believe the Minnesota Democrat understood the “weight of her words” or that they would be perceived by some as anti-Semitic. The resolution won’t mention Omar by name.
“It’s not about her. It’s about these forms of hatred,” Pelosi told reporters. Asked whether the resolution was intended to “police” lawmakers’ words, Pelosi replied: “We are not policing the speech of our members. We are condemning anti-Semitism, anti-Islamophobia and we are condemning white supremacy.”
The move was in part intended to resolve a divide that opened after Omar said that Israel’s supporters were pushing lawmakers to take a pledge of “allegiance” to a foreign country. A Muslim-American, she has been critical of the Jewish state in the past and apologized for those previous comments.
“I feel confident that her words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude,” Pelosi told reporters.
But Omar has not apologized for what many in Congress saw as a suggestion that Israel’s supporters have split loyalties. And that sparked a demand from some quarters to put a resolution on the floor condemning anti-Semitism.
Other members who wanted to broaden it to include a rejection of all forms of racism and bigotry. Some proposed two separate resolutions. Others questioned whether a resolution was necessary, and viewed such a move as unfairly singling out Omar at a time when President Donald Trump and others have made disparaging racial comments.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Democrats the House would vote later in the day.
That seemed to quiet some of the dissention, but there remained frustration that the party that touts its diversity conducted such a messy and public debate about how to declare its opposition to bigotry.
“This shouldn’t be so hard,” said Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said on the House floor.
The abrupt turn of events come as Democratic leaders try to quickly fend off a challenge from Republicans on the issue.
Democratic leaders worried they could run into trouble on another bill, their signature ethics and voting reform package, if Republicans tried to tack their own anti-Semitism bill on as an amendment.
By voting Thursday, the House Democratic vote counters believe they could inoculate their lawmakers against such a move by passing Democrats’ own anti-hate bill.