House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday said he will block Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) from taking seats on the House Intelligence Committee, in a move that the speaker insists is not political payback for the Democrats’ decision to strip hard-right lawmakers from their committee assignments during the last term.
In a letter addressing Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), McCarthy said he appreciated the House Minority Leader’s “loyalty” to his colleagues in trying to reinstate them into the committee but said he “cannot put partisan loyalty ahead of national security.”
Taking a shot at Schiff and Swalwell, McCarthy added he does not “simply recognize” their prior service on the committee as a qualifier for continued membership, adding “integrity matters more.”
McCarthy insisted Tuesday that the decision was “not anything political” and “not similar to what the Democrats did,” referring to the removal of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) from their committee assignments.
Unlike many other committee assignments, seats on the Intelligence Committee are based entirely at the discretion of the Speaker, who usually seeks input from the minority leader.
McCarthy, who has been critical of Schiff’s role in the first impeachment investigation of former President Donald Trump, wrote in his letter: “It is my assessment that the misuse of this panel during the 116th and 117th Congresses severely undermined its primary national security and oversight missions, ultimately leaving our nation less safe…I am committed to returning the House Intelligence Committee to one of genuine honesty and credibility that regains the trust of the American people.”
In a statement on Twitter, Schiff wrote: “Kevin McCarthy just kicked me and Rep. Swalwell off the Intelligence Committee. This is petty, political payback for investigating Donald Trump. If he thinks this will stop me, he will soon find out just how wrong he is. I will always defend our democracy.”
McCarthy’s decision has faced some unexpected pushback from his own party. In a statement, Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) said she opposed the decision: “Speaker McCarthy is taking unprecedented actions this Congress to deny some committee assignments to the Minority without proper due process.” Referring to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) decision to boot Greene and Gosar during the last Congress, Spartz added, “two wrongs do not make a right.” She then urged McCarthy to stop “bread and circuses” and “start governing for a change.” The decision was also criticized by Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) in an interview with CNN, where he called it “terribly corrosive” to the rapport between the two parties and relations in the House. He added that if he were the speaker, he would “go over to” Jeffries and call for a truce and get both sides to agree to “never do this again.”
What To Watch For
McCarthy has also vowed to push out Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But such a move would require a vote on the house floor and the Republicans’ slim majority could make the passage of a vote very difficult. Aside from Spartz and Bacon—who have expressed their displeasure—Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) has signaled she will not support a vote to oust Omar from her committee assignment.