FACT CHECK: Did Ilhan Omar Vote Against A Bill Denying Insurance Payments To The Families Of Terrorists?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk claimed on Twitter that Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar once voted against a bill that blocked payments to the families of terrorists.

“In 2017, @IlhanMN voted no on a bill in the Minnesota Legislature that blocked payments to the children & spouses of known terrorists,” Kirk tweeted March 5.

Verdict: True

According to state records, Omar was one of two members in the Minnesota legislature who voted against H.F. 1397, a 2017 bill that sought to block life insurance payouts to the families of terrorists. It’s unclear why Omar voted against this bill.

Fact Check:

Omar, the freshman lawmaker from Minnesota’s fifth congressional district, is the first Somali American elected to Congress and one of three Muslims currently serving. Prior to her election, Omar served one term in Minnesota’s House of Representatives.

Voting records show that as a state representative, Omar was one of two members to vote against H.F. 1397, a 2017 bill that sought to allow life insurance companies the ability to deny payouts to beneficiaries “if the insured’s death occurs directly or indirectly as a result of the insured’s furtherance of terrorism.”

The bill was in response to the 2015 San Bernardino shooting. Syed Rizwan Farook, a California man who, with his wife Tashfeen Malik, shot and killed 14 people, had previously taken out two life insurance policies worth a combined total of $275,000. After Farook was killed in a shootout with law enforcement, his mother was to be the primary beneficiary of the policies.

However, the federal government filed a lawsuit to seize the money, saying it planned to disperse the funds among the surviving victims and the families of those killed in the attack.

“Terrorists must not be permitted to provide for their designated beneficiaries through their crimes,” said then- U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker in a statement. “My office intends to explore every legal option available to us to ensure these funds are made available to the victims of this horrific crime. We will continue to use every tool available to seek justice on behalf of the victims.”

A federal judge ruled in August 2016 that the government could seize the funds, The San Bernardino Sun reported.

The Minnesota bill passed the House in a 127-2 vote. Omar and fellow state Rep. John Lesch were the only members to vote against the bill. Lesch voiced concern that the wording of the bill might give insurance companies too much discretion over what constitutes terrorism.

“[The bill] allows an insurance company, not a court, to decide what constitutes an act of terrorism under the cited statute, and it lowers the burden on that call to preponderance of the evidence,” Lesch told Alpha News, a Minnesota-based news outlet.

He expressed that he was not opposed to the idea behind the bill: “Terrorists should not be able to send life insurance benefits to beneficiaries based on bad faith recent policy purchases. I think we can all agree on that.”

It’s unclear why Omar voted against the bill. Her office did not respond to a request for comment. (RELATED: Did Ilhan Omar Vote Against A Bill Making Female Genital Mutilation A Felony?)

Omar has been criticized by some on the political right for a letter she sent a judge back in 2016 asking for leniency to be shown to nine Minnesota men charged with planning to join ISIS. “The best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion,” reads one portion of the letter. “We must alter our attitude and approach; if we truly want to affect change, we should refocus our efforts on inclusion and rehabilitation.”

Minneapolis, a city within Omar’s congressional district, has witnessed some of its young male residents join, or attempt to join, terror groups such as ISIS and Somalia-based al-Shabab, according to one Fox News story.

Omar has faced calls to be removed from her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee over comments she made that were perceived by some to be anti-Semitic.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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