Democrats are daring Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to make good on his pledge to remove two members from the House Intelligence Committee.
Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) formally recommended “eminently qualified” Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) continue serving on the panel with a letter dated Saturday. The missive is addressed to McCarthy, who vowed retribution as he accused Democrats of creating a “new standard” after GOP members were booted from their committee assignments in the last session of Congress.
“It is my understanding that you intend to break with the longstanding House tradition of deference to the minority party Intelligence Committee recommendations and deny seats to Ranking Member Schiff and Representative Swalwell,” Jeffries said in the letter published by Punchbowl News. “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.”
McCarthy rose to the speakership while making promises to bump Schiff and Swalwell from their Intelligence Committee perches — a move he has the power to make unilaterally. McCarthy has also talked about bouncing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from the Foreign Affairs Committee, but that would take a House floor vote to accomplish. In November, McCarthy accused Schiff of lying to the American public “time and again” and said Swalwell would be unable to get a security clearance in the public sector, alluding to Swalwell’s intimate ties to an alleged Chinese spy years ago.
Long regarded to be apolitical, the House Intelligence Committee became ground zero for partisan sniping during former President Donald Trump’s presidency with investigations into the 2016 election and Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. Schiff, who became chairman in 2019, made headlines by claiming there was “ample” evidence of Russia collusion.
In reacting to McCarthy’s threat to remove him from the panel, Schiff told CNN in November that “McCarthy’s problem is not with what I have said about Russia” but rather McCarthy’s bid to earn enough votes to become speaker. “So, he will misrepresent my record,” Schiff added. Swalwell argued McCarthy’s actions appeared to be “political vengeance” and defended himself in the Chinese spy scandal by pointing to FBI officials telling the media he was cooperative with any investigation and not suspected of wrongdoing.
In his letter, Jeffries argued Democrats did not set a “precedent or justification” for McCarthy to remove Schiff and Swalwell. He specifically pointed to the last session of Congress when Democrats controlled the House, stressing that some Republicans joined Democrats in voting to kick Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) from their committees over a series of inflammatory statements and a controversial video shared on social media, respectively.
“In the 117th Congress, two Members were removed from their committee assignments after a bipartisan vote of the House found them unfit to serve on standing committees for directly inciting violence against their colleagues,” Jeffries wrote. “This action was taken by both Democrats and Republicans given the seriousness of the conduct involved, particularly in the aftermath of a violent insurrection and attack on the Capitol.”
Last week, the House GOP Steering Committee elected to give Greene and Gosar fresh committee assignments, including on the powerful House Oversight Committee.
Jeffries also brought up “serial fraudster” Rep. George Santos (R-NY) in an attempt to bolster his argument. Republicans opted to give the freshman lawmaker, who has admitted to lying about aspects of his career and personal life, committee assignments despite Santos facing multiple investigations and calls to resign.
“The apparent double standard risks undermining the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that is so desperately needed in Congress,” Jeffries said.