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Ilhan Omar embarks on a new path no longer defined by ‘first’

Washington – President Joe Biden was finishing his speech at a clean energy facility in Minnesota when he spotted a lawmaker he wanted to recognize in the crowd.

“Thank you for being here,” Biden said. Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar during his recent visit. “We will never stop working to provide a level playing field for all.”

For Omar, the praise from Biden, who was neither the first nor second candidate for the 2020 White House nomination, was more than just a polite shout-out as the president visited a suburban neighborhood of Minneapolis. It was at times her position with the Democratic Party seemed tenuous, recognizing how far Omar had come after a difficult start to her political career.

As she settles into her third term, Omar is no longer the “first time” when arriving in Congress. She was one of the first Muslim women elected to the House of Commons, the first refugee from Africa to be elected to the House of Commons, the first lawmaker to be clothed, and more. Hijab while on the floor at home.

In interviews with nearly a dozen Democrats in the House and Senate, the lawmakers called Omar a serious man who has earned praise for giving voice to an often-forgotten and marginalized group in the Capitol over the past four years. portrayed as a member of parliament.

The best example of this happened in early February when all Democrats in the House voted against. Republican resolution to remove her from the House Foreign Relations Committee on her Past comments critical of Israel.

“I think I’ve managed to get to a place where the Democratic caucuses, the Democrats, the Democratic establishment can see me fully. To celebrate it, but to protect it,” Omar said. told the Associated Press.

In the debate over her committee seat, many of Omar’s fellow Democrats, including those of Jewish descent, spoke out on the floor over what they said was hypocrisy from the new Republican majority.

“I don’t need you defending me against anti-Semitism,” said Rep. Jan Schakowski, D-Ill. “My friend Ilhan Omar and I are committed to the values ​​I hold dear as an American Jew and the ones she holds dear as the only American Muslim woman on the Committee on Foreign Relations. We have been working together.”

Democrats called it retaliation because they used the majority to do it again in the last Congress. expel a far-right Republican congressman from a committee for them inflammatory or violent speech seconds. But the emotional floor debate over Omar stood apart from the bipartisan fury she faced in her first year in office. At the time, Democrats were confronted with the realities that came with Omar’s diverse perspectives when she showed little respect for her party’s line. Brought out the division of Israel openly.

It began with social media posts in which Omar criticized pro-Israel lobbyist groups and questioned the loyalty of Jewish lawmakers who opposed her criticism of the Israeli government.

Omar apologized for his personal and public comments to his Jewish colleagues at the time. What she wonders is the influence game in Washington, and she expressed concern that anything she says about Israel and its treatment of Palestinians would be interpreted as anti-Semitic.

In response, top Democrats began drafting a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, with early versions even naming Omar. At the time, only a handful of Democrats, both in and out of Congress, defended her.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said in April 2019 that Omar may “need to do a better job with the Jewish community” but that “criticizing the right is not anti-Semitic.” No,’ he said. Israeli government. “

Ben Rhodes, who was President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, wanted to use his background to push for structural change in foreign policy after meeting Omar early in his career. He said it was clear that there was

“There are plenty of people in Congress who can represent established views of American foreign policy, whether it’s about the Middle East or about military policy,” Rhodes said. A different perspective is desperately needed and that’s what she brought.”

Resolution finally introduced by Democrats and passed in Spring 2019 It contained accusations of anti-Muslim prejudice, but did not mention Omar by name. Over the next several years, the former state legislator focused on bringing attention to issues affecting immigrants and families in her district and throughout Minnesota, and as a result, she became a member of her party’s various Gained support from factions.

“The more time I spend with her, the more I appreciate her perspective, and I hope her voice represents not only our community in Minnesota, but our country and many communities. Rep. Dean Phillips, Minnesota Democrat, another Jewish member of Congress, said, “It’s not about agreeing. This building was built for consensus.” It’s not, it was created to manage disagreements, and I’d like to think she and I can be the perfect example of that.

Omar began climbing the ranks in one of the largest ideological caucuses in the House, the Congressional Progressive Caucus. As progressives helped pave the way for Biden’s agenda to pass through the House and Senate, she became a polling counter for caucus speaker, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington.

In January, Omar was elected by more than 100 party members as vice-president of the caucuses.

“She’s not going to stop using her voice,” said Jayapal. “She will continue to raise her voice on her foreign affairs. She can’t shut her up by just kicking her out of her committee. She’s too strong for that.”

Born in Somalia, Omar is embarking on a new chapter “as a minority within a minority,” helping Biden and the Democrats provide a split screen to Republican rule and enforcing the implementation of several past legislative achievements. 2 years including infrastructure law by emphasizing.

“Being fired from a committee is not a pleasant experience. But I think she turns it into a real blessing,” said Jim, an early supporter of Omar and a member of the House Democratic leadership team. Rep. Cliburn said.

Omar is also chairing the newly formed Africa Policy Working Group, where she and more than a dozen House Democrats will focus on issues relating to the African continent.

“We don’t agree with everything,” said Rep. Sarah Jacobs, one of the group’s members. “But we share a similar worldview. Especially when it comes to the African continent, we don’t lead an army, we actually lead diplomacy, we care about human rights, we do good governance. We are committed to U.S. engagement by facilitating

While many expressed concern that her removal from the House Foreign Relations Committee would effectively silence her on foreign policy, Omar said she would not be assigned to the House Budget Committee as her replacement. Given that, the Republicans miscalculated badly.

“This is why Republicans joke about the fact that they removed me from the Foreign Affairs Committee,” Omar said.

“Not only because we have the opportunity to address foreign policy investments such as development, defense and foreign affairs, but also because we can have a greater say as the debate progresses regarding our own policy budget.”

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2023/04/09/ilhan-omar-embarks-on-new-path-no-longer-defined-by-firsts/ Ilhan Omar embarks on a new path no longer defined by ‘first’

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