House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Tuesday he will block Reps. Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee, days after House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) formally recommended the California Democrats be reappointed to the panel.
McCarthy has argued that both Schiff and Swalwell are unfit to serve on the committee, using Schiff’s work conducting the first impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump and Swalwell’s alleged ties to a Chinese intelligence operative. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing in relation to the allegation against Swalwell.
“This is not anything political. This is not similar to what the Democrats did,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday evening. “Those members will have other committees, but the Intel committee, the Intel committee’s responsibility is a national security … I respect Hakeem Jeffries’s support of his conference and his people. But integrity matters.”
Unlike most committees, where party leaders control their appointees, the speaker has final say over who sits on the Intelligence panel.
McCarthy declined to answer multiple questions on whether he will try to keep Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from serving on the Foreign Affairs committee - a move that would require a majority vote in the full House.
Schiff told reporters that McCarthy was “carrying the dirty water” for Trump by leaving him out of the committee as retribution for his work during Trump’s first impeachment trial.
Republicans have been keen to deny Democrats positions on key panels after the Democratic-led House in the last Congress voted to remove Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) from their committee assignments. Greene had previously voiced approval of violence against prominent Democrats, and Gosar had posted an animated video on social media that depicted the killing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). In the votes to remove them from their committee slots, some Republicans joined Democrats in voting yes.
Greene and Gosar were removed “after a bipartisan vote of the House found them unfit to serve on standing committees for directly inciting violence against their colleagues,” Jeffries wrote in his letter. “It does not serve as precedent or justification for the removal of Representatives Schiff and Swalwell, given that they have never exhibited violent thoughts or behavior.”
McCarthy, in his formal response to Jeffries on Tuesday, said he cannot “put partisan loyalty ahead of national security” and accused Democrats of misusing the panel during the past two congressional terms. McCarthy claimed that, under Democratic control the panel “undermined its primary national security and oversight missions ultimately leaving our nation less safe.”
In a joint statement released Tuesday after McCarthy’s announcement, Schiff, Omar and Swalwell said they find it “disappointing but not surprising” that McCarthy would attempt to keep them from committee assignments. They accused him of “undermining the integrity of the Congress, and harming our national security in the process.”
“He struck a corrupt bargain in his desperate, and nearly failed, attempt to win the Speakership, a bargain that required political vengeance against the three of us,” he said, referring to the negotiations McCarthy engaged in with the far-right flank of his party during his lengthy fight for the speakership.