WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden paused a speech at Minnesota’s cleanest energy facility when he spotted a lawyer in the crowd he wanted to recognize.
“I want to thank you for being here,” Biden said, gesturing toward Republican Rep. Ilhan Omar during a recent visit “You never stop working to level the playing field for everyone.”
For Omar, the quick glimmer of praise from Biden — who is neither the first nor the second choice to be the party’s 2020 White House nominee — was more than a flattering shout-out during the presidential visit to his suburban district. It was a recognition of how far Omar has come after a rocky start to his political career, which can sometimes appear thin with Democrats standing.
As she enters her third term, Omar is no longer defined by the “firsts” that accompany her arrival in Congress: one of the first Muslim women in the House, the first African refugee elected to the House, the first advocate to wear a hijab while on the House floor.
In interviews with nearly a dozen Democrats in the House and Senate, lawmakers portrayed Omar as a tough lawmaker who, over the past four years, has earned admiration for his voice at the margins of a society often forgotten on Capitol Hill.
The best example of this came in early February when every House Democrat voted against the Senate GOP to remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. critical comments on Israel’s past.
“I think we’ve done well for the caucus, the Democratic Party, the Democratic constitution, to get to a place where they can see me fully, because I’m the first of all the multiple identities and not only see and celebrate but defend,” Omar told the Associated Press.
During the debate on the bench, many of Omar’s fellow Democrats, including those of Jewish descent, spoke in the room about what they said was hypocrisy from many new Republicans.
“I don’t need you to defend me against antisemitism,” said Rep. Jan Shakowsky, D-Ill. “My friend Ilhan Omar and I worked together on the values that I treasure as an American Jew and that I treasure as an American Islamic woman, together on the Foreign Affairs Committee.”
Democrats called it payback because they used their majorities in the last Congress to push far-right GOP lawmakers out of commissions. for the incendiary, it was said more violently s. But the movement on the floor of the debate over Omar was a departure from the bipartisan outrage that plagued his first year in office. At the time, Democrats faced a different reality when Omar—showing less respect for the party’s front line—drew the divisions over Israel into the open..
It started with social media, in which Omar criticizes pro-Israel lobbyist groups and questions the credibility of Jewish lawyers who have pushed back against criticism of the Israeli government.
Omar apologized for his comments at the time privately with Jewish colleagues and publicly. He said what he was looking for was a momentous game in Washington and was expressing his concern that anything he said about Israel and the treatment of the Palestinians would be construed as antisemitic.
In response, top Democrats began adopting a resolution that condemned antisemitism, with the first version also naming Omar. At the time of Congress, only a few inside and outside came to his defense.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the top ranking member of Congress, said in April 2019 that Omar “needs to do a better job talking to the Jewish community” but “isn’t an anti-Semitic critic of the right-wing government.” in Israel
Ben Rhodes, who was President Barack Obama’s national security deputy, said that when he first met Omar in his career, it was clear that he wanted to use his field to push for a structural change in foreign policy.
“There are a lot of people in Congress who can represent the type of American foreign policy establishment, whether it’s in the Middle East or in the military,” Rhodes said. “There is a great need for thinking and different perspectives of the legal profession, and this is what she produces.”
The resolution Democrats ended up introducing and passing in the spring of 2019 The condemnation included anti-Muslim bias, but did not mention Omar’s name. For the next several years, the former state legislator has focused on bringing back issues that have affected immigrants and families both in his home state and across Minnesota. This achievement won the support of various political parties.
“The more time I spent with her, the more I came to appreciate her perspective, the more I came to realize how important her voice is to represent not just our community in Minnesota, not just our country, but many around the world,” Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., another member of the Jewish Congress. This building was not built by consent. The thing is built to manage discord. And I’d like to think that she and I could be the perfect example of that.
Omar began moving up the ranks in the Congressional Progressive Caucus – one of the largest ideological caucuses in the House. It was made by a count of votes for the chair of the caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., helped pave the way for Biden’s agenda to pass the House and the Senate in the last congressional hearing.
In January, Omar was elected by more than 100 members to chair the caucus.
“I’m not going to stop using my voice,” Jayapal said. “He will continue to use that voice in foreign affairs. Just kicking her in the party isn’t going to shut her up. That is the best way to do it.”
Omar, who was born in Somalia, is embarking on a new chapter “as a minority, in a minority”, helping Biden and the Democratic Party provide cover for the Republican regime, highlighting the implementation of several legislative achievements in the past. two years, including the legal infrastructure.
“Having a plan taken away is not a pleasant experience. But I think it’s going to be a real blessing,” said Rep. Jim Clyburn, D.C., who was a primary supporter of Omar and is a member of the House Democratic leadership team.
Omar also chairs a newly formed Africa policy working group, where she and more than a dozen House Democrats focus on issues around the continent.
“We don’t agree on everything,” said Rep. Sara Jacobs, one of the members of the group. “But we share a similar world view, especially when it comes to the continent of Africa, where we are both really engaged in a battle with the US, not with our military, but actually actively and inclined towards good human rights and promoting good governance.”
While there were many pessimistic concerns that his removal from the Foreign Affairs Committee could effectively silence her on foreign policy, Omar said Republicans miscalculated that he had been assigned to replace the House Budget Committee.
“What I’m joking about is that the Republicans removing me from the Foreign Affairs Committee essentially meant they were promoting me,” Omar said.
“Because we will not only have the ability to address foreign affairs with development, defense and energy, but we will also be able to have more of a say on the part of the debates as to how our defense budget will progress.”