March 31, 2023

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said on Monday night he is undecided on if he will vote to block Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from sitting on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, once again creating a whip count problem for Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) who’s vowed to oust the Democrat from her committee seat.

“The reason I think a lot of Republicans want to kick Ilhan Omar off of the Foreign Affairs Committee is because they don’t like what she has to say,” Gaetz said on Newsmax. “I am undecided as of tonight as to whether or not I would vote to remove Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee, because it’s one thing to do dangerous things to the country with intelligence. It’s quite another to say, ‘I don’t like your viewpoint, and thus I want to remove you.’”

Last year, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) were stripped of their committee assignments after they shared violent social media posts targeting Democratic lawmakers — which included Greene posting about the assassination of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Gosar posting an edited anime video that depicted him swinging swords at President Biden and killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). 

Since becoming speaker, McCarthy has vowed to fulfill his promise to oust some Democrats out of their seats as retaliation for what happened to Greene and Gosar. This is a political calculation on McCarthy’s end as he struggles to keep the MAGA House Republicans on his side and work through his agenda with a small majority of Republicans.

McCarthy already single handedly blocked Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) from joining the House Intelligence Committee last week. He has also been targeting Omar for some past remarks — which have been described as anti-Semitic — that she later apologized for. 

But in Omar’s case, the Speaker will need the support of a majority of the whole House to block her. There’s been reporting that he hopes to hold that vote this week. If all Democrats support Omar, McCarthy can only afford to lose four Republican votes.

Reps. Ken Buck (R-CO), Victoria Spartz (R-IN) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) have already indicated that they will not vote to block Omar from getting a seat on the committee. So by announcing he is undecided, Gaetz is once again creating a math problem for McCarthy — just like he did in the days long speakership vote earlier this month. 

Gaetz was notably one of the last MAGA conservative holdouts in the speaker vote. He created quite a bit of drama on the House floor after he voted “present” following round 14 of votes. McCarthy notably confronted him on the House floor and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) had to be physically restrained from lunging at Gaetz.

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) also indicated he might muck things up further for McCarthy, reportedly telling the House GOP conference on Tuesday that he will be stepping aside from the committees he was assigned as the GOP is trying to push Omar out, according to CNN.

The timing of the Omar vote is still uncertain but with the razor thin majority the GOP holds in the House, Gaetz and other MAGA hardliners will likely continue to be a headache for McCarthy as they hold votes important to Republican leadership hostage to get concessions out of the Speaker.

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