2 GOPers caught trashing “stupidest vote in the world” — then beg reporters not to tell leadership

Two House Republicans didn't want GOP leaders to know they slammed the vote to oust Ilhan Omar in an elevator

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published February 3, 2023 9:16AM (EST)

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) departs after giving remarks at a news conference in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol Building on February 02, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) departs after giving remarks at a news conference in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol Building on February 02, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Two House Republicans on Thursday were overheard trashing the GOP's vote to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from the Foreign Relations Committee.

The House voted 218-211 down party lines to remove Omar from the panel, ostensibly over her 2019 comments about the influence of wealthy Jewish Americans on U.S. politics that drew allegations of antisemitism. Democrats denounced the vote as "political revenge" after Democrats previously booted Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., from committees for appearing to endorse violence against Democratic lawmakers.

Despite joining their party in voting to remove Omar, two Republicans were overheard trashing the stunt afterward.

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., who sits on the Foreign Affairs panel, was overheard by reporters on an elevator calling it the "stupidest vote in the world," according to Roll Call.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, agreed and said that all it did was make Omar a "martyr," according to the report.

"They both also agreed that it was simply a retaliatory vote in response to Democrats removing certain Republicans from committees in the 117th Congress," Roll Call's Rachel Oswald reported, adding that the two Republicans then asked their fellow passengers in the elevator to "not let leadership know their thoughts."

Buck and other Republican holdouts that had groused about the move ultimately voted with their party. He previously said that he "opposed" removing Omar, arguing the party "should not engage in this tit for tat."

Reps. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., and Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., also opposed the vote but both flipped on the issue and voted to oust Omar after McCarthy apparently assuaged their concerns about due process, according to the Washington Examiner.

Republicans that voted to oust Omar also faced accusations of hypocrisy. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called out Republicans for booting Omar while elevating Greene, who has espoused conspiracy theories about Jewish people controlling the weather.

"Don't tell me that this is about a condemnation of anti-Semitic remarks when you have a member of the Republican caucus who has talked about Jewish space lasers and also elevated her to some of the highest committee assignments in this body," Ocasio-Cortez said on the House floor. "This is about targeting women of color in the United States of America."

Ocasio-Cortez added that she "didn't get a single apology" after her "life was threatened," referring to an animated video posted by Gosar showing her being killed with a sword.

Gosar and Greene also both attended the America First Political Action Conference hosted by far-right white nationalist Nick Fuentes, who has repeatedly praised Hitler.

"Today's vote is not a reflection of Representative Omar, but on the rank hypocrisy of Republican leadership, which has used its power to exact revenge on their political opponents and, in the case of Omar, punish a Member to satisfy the extreme MAGA wing of their party," Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-Fla., the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

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Meeks said that if the vote is to punish a member for antisemitism, it "should be condemning Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene – of 'Jewish space lasers' fame - for spreading conspiracies that 'Zionist supremacists" are flooding Europe with migrants to replace white populations. It should be condemning Rep. Miller for quoting Adolf Hitler in Congressional remarks, or Rep. Gosar for inviting a Holocaust denier to the State of the Union. This resolution should be condemning Speaker McCarthy himself for his November 6th tweet accusing three Jewish men of buying the election, an antisemitic dog whistle about Jewish money buying elections."

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., also questioned why Republican leaders haven't "denounced any of the things that have been said by their members."

"Marjorie Taylor Greene has been rewarded with a seat on the Homeland Security Committee. You can't make this up," he added. "This type of poisonous, toxic double standard is going to complicate the relationship moving forward between House Democrats and Republicans."

A coalition of liberal Jewish groups also accused McCarthy of hypocrisy while opposing the vote in December.

"McCarthy's pledge seems especially exploitative in light of the rampant promotion of antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories by him and his top deputies amid a surge in dangerous right-wing antisemitism," the statement said "He posted (and later deleted) a tweet charging that George Soros and two other billionaires of Jewish descent were seeking to 'buy' an election. His newly elected Whip Tom Emmer said the same people 'essentially bought control of Congress.' Meanwhile, Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik has promoted the deadly antisemitic 'Great Replacement' conspiracy theory."

Omar on Thursday argued that she was singled out by the GOP because of racism.

"I am Muslim, I am an immigrant, and interestingly, from Africa," Omar said. "Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy, or that they see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced?"

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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