New congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib stand up to Trump and his cronies

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar arrives for the State of the Union address at the U.S. Congress in early February.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar arrives for the State of the Union address at the U.S. Congress in early February.

BY LAURA DANIELS

They promised it to their constituencies during the 2018 mid-term campaign, and they are now delivering: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar who represents Minnesota’s 5th district, and her colleague Rashida Tlaib from Michigan’s 13th district, vowed not only to push the progressive agendas they campaigned on—the extension of healthcare to all, hiking minimum wage to $15 and more—but also to stand up to Donald Trump’s and his cronies’ bigotry.

Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American to win a seat in the U.S. Congress, was again in the news last week in the context of the explosive testimony given by Donald Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen before the House of Representatives’ Oversight committee. That was only six weeks after the congresswoman had caused a stir on 4 January when she used profane language to refer to Trump.

Congresswoman-elect Rashida Tlaib, originally from Palestine

Congresswoman-elect Rashida Tlaib, originally from Palestine

During the high-profile public testimony that Cohen used to make jaw-dropping, damaging statements about Trump, Republican members of the Oversight Committee chose not to defend Trump, and instead attacked Cohen’s character on the basis of his previous lies to Congress that has earned him a three-year jail sentence. 

But one Republican lawmaker, in addition to hitting hard at Cohen as “a liar,” also opted to shoot down Cohen’s characterization of Trump as a racist. To do so, Representative Mark Meadows from North Carolina brought to the hearing an African American woman, Lynne Patton, who once worked for Trump. Then, parading Patton, an official with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, before the committee, Meadows stated, addressing his colleague Tlaib:

“She says, as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama that there is no way she would work for an individual who was racist.”

The congressman added: “I’ve talked to the president over 300 times. I’ve not heard one time a racist comment out of his mouth in private.”

Undoubtedly, Meadows’ remarks surprised many in the audience (and millions watching the testimony on television), given Trumps’ well-known appalling record when it comes to racism. But one legislator, freshman Democrat Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, had the courage to call out Meadow by saying:

The fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is, alone, racist.”

The congresswoman’s remarks threw Meadows off balance. An agitated Meadows turned red and went on an awkward defense till he was appeased by the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, long-time black congressman Elijah Cummings. Tlaib ended up apologizing.

Not only does Trump’s actions and words speak for his being a hardcore racist, his defender during the testimony, Mark Meadows, has also illustrated himself as a racist. Following the incident during the testimony, the media played over and over again Meadows’ statements dating back to 2012 when he first ran for Congress, at the very time Trump was leading the so-called “birther movement,” the racist bunch that questioned President Obama’s American citizenship, apparently to imply that he did not qualify to be president of the United States. In the video clip, Meadows is heard saying during one of his campaign stops: “2012 is the time when we send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is.”

That was not the first time Tlaib displayed such courage. The congresswoman from Michigan had shocked Washington and beyond just hours after being sworn in on 4 January with a statement she made in a video clip that went viral. In the clip she stated:

When your son looks at you and said ‘Mamma, look, you won — bullies don’t win.’ And I said, ‘Baby they don’t, because we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherfucker!’”

The fowl language caused a stir, and the freshman legislator later apologized, but stood firmly by the substance of her statement. In a statement relayed by the media, she said she was sorry for the distraction her comment has caused, adding: I’m very passionate about fighting for us, excited, and it got the best of me.”

She later said:

But you know, I just want all the women out there to know: Be yourself. Don’t think that you can’t say those things or get this passionate or angry. It’s okay.”

Throughout the 2018 campaign, the candidate from Michigan’s 13th district constantly hit hard at Donald Trump saying, among other things:

President Trump is a direct and serious threat to our country. On an almost daily basis, he attacks our Constitution, our democracy, the rule of law and the people who are in this country. His conduct has created a constitutional crisis that we must confront now.”

Ilhan Omar, the freshman representative from Minnesota and first person born on the African continent to be elected to the U.S. Congress, did not hesitate to respond to Donald Trump’s attack on her during a recent controversy born out of her remarks that U.S. support for Israel is driven by financial donations from a prominent pro-israel lobby group. The day after Ilhan Omar apologized for her remarks—which some viewed as anti-semitic—Donald Trump who, according to leaked documents, spends 40% of his time watching tv and tweeting, instead of doing the job he stole the election for, called for Omar’s resignation. The congresswoman wasted no time in tweeting back:

“You have trafficked in hate your whole life—against Jews, Muslims, Indigenous, immigrants, black people and more. I learned from people impacted by my words. When will you?”

Trump usually goes after his preys repeatedly, but not this time.

As expected, not everyone welcomes the diversity Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib (and the new crop of legislators sworn in earlier this year) bring to the U.S. House of Representatives. Case in point: in reference to the new Congress which was expected to comprise two Muslim women, one of whom wears a hijab (Ilhan Omar does), American conservative pastor and radio show host E.W. Jackson stated in December during one of his programs that “The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic.”

Jackson’s statement came against the backdrop of the prospect of changing a rule dating back 181 years that bans headwear on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Then-incoming Demoratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, seconded by then- future House of Representatives Rules chairman Jim McGovern, and Ilham Omar proposed relaxing that rule to allow religious headwear such as a hijab.

Omar wasted no time in firing back. She tweeted:

“Well sir, the floor of Congress is going to look like America. And you’re gonna have to just deal.”

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