Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) formally rejected House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries’ (D-N.Y.) request to reappoint two controversial Democrats to the influential House Intelligence Committee, fulfilling a key campaign promise.
ABC News reports that on Tuesday night, McCarthy rejected the requests to seat Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) on the Intelligence Committee. In his letter to Jeffries explaining his decision, McCarthy said his move was based on “integrity.”
“I cannot put partisan loyalty ahead of national security, and I cannot simply recognize years of service as the sole criteria for membership on this essential committee. Integrity matters more,” McCarthy said in the letter. Furthermore, he pointed out that the Democrats’ “misuse of this panel during the 116th and 117th Congress severely undermined its primary national security and oversight missions — ultimately leaving our nation less safe.”
In the past, committee assignments were always decided by the Speaker in consultation with the minority party’s leadership, and almost all recommendations would be accepted with little issue.
But in the previous Congress, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took the unprecedented step of unilaterally removing two Republicans from all of their committee assignments: Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), based on comments she had made prior to her time in office, and Congressman Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), over a meme video he had posted that Democrats and the media falsely described as a threat of violence against other members of Congress. Despite the objections of McCarthy and the Republican caucus, both were removed by the Democratic majority in full House votes.
Following those decisions, McCarthy vowed that he would do the same thing as Speaker against a handful of controversial Democrats. Swalwell has been targeted and widely mocked for his involvement with a known Chinese spy named Fang Fang, which may have included a sexual relationship; Swalwell has refused to disavow his past association with her and has never answered questions about the extent of their relationship. Schiff, who previously chaired the Intelligence Committee, has been criticized for repeatedly claiming to be in possession of “evidence” that would prove there had been collusion between President Donald Trump and the Russian government, despite never once presenting any such proof.
McCarthy has also refused to seat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on the Foreign Affairs Committee, primarily due to her numerous anti-Semitic and anti-American comments.
“What I am doing with the Intel Committee [is] bringing it back to the jurisdiction it’s supposed to do,” McCarthy said to reporters during a press conference.” Forward-looking to keep this country safe, keep the politics out of it. So yes, I’m doing exactly what we’re supposed to do.”
In his own statement, Jeffries claimed that “the denial of seats to duly elected Members of the House Democratic Caucus runs counter to the serious and sober mission of the Intelligence Committee.”
The clash between the two leaders could set up a showdown on the House floor where the entire chamber will vote on whether or not to remove the three from their committees. However, at least two Republicans, Reps. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) and Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) have publicly said that they would not support such removals, which could lead to a razor-thin majority in McCarthy’s favor.