WASHINGTON (AP) — The House pushed toward a vote Thursday on a newly unveiled resolution that condemns anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities "as hateful expressions of intolerance" as Democrats tried to move past an issue that has overtaken their congressional agenda.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would vote after freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar's comments about Israel sparked turmoil within the party.
The seven-page document 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.
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 told reporters. 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 Charlottesville, but does not specifically condemn white supremacy.
The move was 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 a 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 U.S.'s longstanding 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.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent said, "Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world. We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel."
Sanders said, "What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate. That's wrong."
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris said "we need to speak out against hate." But she said she also believes "there is a critical difference between criticism of policy or political leaders, and anti-Semitism."
A statement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said, "Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians." She said threats of violence, including those made against Omar, "are never acceptable."
Some of the House's leading Jewish Democrats wanted to a resolution on the floor simply condemning anti-Semitism.
But other House Democrats wanted to broaden the resolution to include a rejection of all forms of racism and bigotry. Some proposed two separate resolutions. Others questioned whether a resolution was necessary at all and viewed it as unfairly singling out Omar at a time when President Donald Trump and others have made disparaging racial comments.
There remains frustration that the party that touts its diversity conducted such a messy and public debate about how to declare its opposition to bigotry.
"This shouldn't be so hard," Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said on the House floor.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders are trying to fend off a challenge from Republicans on the issue.
They worry they could run into trouble on another bill, their signature ethics and voting reform package, if Republicans try to tack their own anti-Semitism bill on as an amendment. By voting Thursday, the House Democratic vote counters believed they could inoculate their lawmakers against such a move by passing their anti-hate bill.
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Associated Press writers Padmananda Rama, Elana Schor and Juana Summers contributed to this report.
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