WASHINGTON - Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized other Democrats and pushed back against party leaders over their efforts to rebuke fellow freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar for comments perceived as anti-Semitic.
Plans to pass a resolution condemning anti-Semitism - one that does not mention Omar, D-Minn., directly but comes in response to remarks she made last week suggesting that Israel's supporters have an "allegiance to a foreign country" - were in flux Tuesday as Democratic leaders debated whether to add language also condemning anti-Muslim bias.
The response to Omar's remarks has split the Democratic caucus, with several lawmakers angry that the House was poised to vote on a measure indirectly condemning Omar while not denouncing the vitriol that she has faced.
Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, told her 3.4 million Twitter followers Tuesday that "no one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities," mentioning an incident in which Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., shouted "Go back to Puerto Rico!" at Democrats during a floor debate this year.
"It's not my position to tell people how to feel, or that their hurt is invalid," Ocasio-Cortez wrote. "But incidents like these do beg the question: where are the resolutions against homophobic statements? For anti-blackness? For xenophobia? For a member saying he'll 'send Obama home to Kenya?' "
The tweets were an implicit critique of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who moved to put the anti-Semitism resolution on the House floor after Omar's comments last week prompted several Jewish members to push for a rebuke. Twice this year, Omar has apologized for tweets that critics said had anti-Semitic overtones, but she has defended her latest comments questioning Israel supporters' "allegiance" - arguing that she is only raising questions about Israeli government policy and U.S. support for it.
Top Democratic leaders met in Pelosi's office Tuesday afternoon to discuss the resolution language. Heading into the meeting, Hoyer said the timing of votes was "still being discussed."
The debate within the caucus was described by three Democratic aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.
In Ocasio-Cortez, the breakout liberal star of the House freshman class, Omar has a powerful ally who is able to reach a wide audience on social media. On Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez said Omar "has demonstrated a willingness to listen+work w/impacted communities" and thus should not be subject to a "calling out" from fellow Democrats in the House.
"If House leadership is creating a standard & committing to calling a resolution for every incident . . . then that's a clear way to address the issue & we can all understand," she added. "But if they're not, I think it's valid to ask why not."
A senior Democratic aide noted that Smith quickly apologized for his "go back to Puerto Rico" remark and that the lawmaker targeted, Rep. Tony CĂˇrdenas, D-Calif., did not pursue official sanctions against Smith.
Ocasio-Cortez's tweets came hours after President Trump used his Twitter account - with nearly 59 million followers - to lambaste Omar: "Representative Ilhan Omar is again under fire for her terrible comments concerning Israel," he said. "Jewish groups have just sent a petition to Speaker Pelosi asking her to remove Omar from Foreign Relations Committee. A dark day for Israel!"
Questioned about the resolution, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it was time for the country "to think again about anti-Semitism," and criticized Omar without mentioning her by name.
"It seems to be more fashionable in Europe, it seems to be more fashionable in this country, regretfully, among at least some members of the new class in the House," McConnell told reporters at his weekly news conference. "We need to stand up to it in every way we possibly can."
Amid pressure from Republicans, Democratic leaders are not considering removing Omar from any committee posts, according to three people familiar with the internal discussions among party leaders. But they are mindful of how the increasingly aggressive criticism of Israeli government policy from Omar, Ocasio-Cortez and other liberals is creating tensions inside the Democratic caucus, where pro-Israel sentiment generally remains strong.
On Monday, Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif., tweeted that "questioning support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is unacceptable" - prompting Ocasio-Cortez to ask him publicly to "further explain his stance."
"I remember a time when it was 'unacceptable' to question the Iraq War. All of Congress was wrong, including both GOP & Dem Party, and led my generation into a disastrous + wrong war that virtually all would come to regret," she wrote.
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