House broadens anti-hate bill yet again, nears vote

Published 8:28 am Friday, March 8, 2019

WASHINGTON — House Democrats briefly delayed votes on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other bigotry Thursday as they added language sought by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to include mention of Latinos, too.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office said the changes were quickly made — inserting the reference to Latinos — and voting on the resolution was back on track for late Thursday, a spokeswoman said.

The late revision came after a week of robust and often divisive debate among Democrats over how to respond to newly elected Rep. Ilhan Omar’s comments critical of Israel.

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The resolution also condemns anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities “as hateful expressions of intolerance” as Democrats try to move past an issue that has overtaken their congressional agenda.

The addition of Latinos came under a section that stated, “Whereas white supremacists in the United States have exploited and continue to exploit bigotry and weaponize hate for political gain, targeting traditionally persecuted peoples, including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others with verbal attacks, incitement, and violence.”

Freshman Rep. Omar’s comments about Israel sparked turmoil within her party.

The seven-page House resolution details a history of recent attacks not only against Jews in the United States but also Muslims, as it condemns all such discrimination as contradictory to “the values and aspirations” of the people of the United States.

House Speaker Nancy 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 does not mention Omar by name.

“It’s not about her. It’s about these forms of hatred,” Pelosi said. 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,” Islamophobia and white supremacy.

The resolution cites the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, but does not specifically condemn white supremacy.

The legislation is 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.

But Omar has not apologized for what many in Congress saw as her recent suggestion that Israel’s supporters in the U.S. have split loyalties. And that sparked a divide among Democrats that could stretch into the 2020 election season.

The longstanding U.S. relationship with Israel is coming under increased scrutiny form liberals critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative leadership in regard to the Palestinians and other issues.