House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday formally booted two Democrats — Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) from the House Intelligence Committee, rejecting Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries’ (D-NY) demands to reappoint the “eminently qualified” lawmakers.
McCarthy said the confidential briefing he received from the FBI regarding Swalwell and his relationship ties to a suspected Chinese spy after it was made public in 2020 and the agency’s concern that the Congressman was still serving in the intel panel sealed the deal for the removal.
On Schiff, McCarthy slammed the former Intelligence Chairman for abusing his power as head of the panel by lying “to the American public” about former President Trump’s ties to Russia and other intel information regarding the run-up to Trump’s first impeachment case in 2019, and President Biden’s son Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop in the final weeks of the 2020 elections.
McCarthy during a news conference explained his reasoning for not seating the 2 California Democrats, emphasizing his move was not “partisan politics” in retribution for Democrats’ eviction votes to remove GOP Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia from their committees.
“I will put national security ahead of partisan politics,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday, noting that both Schiff and Swalwell can be seated on other committees, but not on the intel committee. “This is not anything political. This is not similar to what the Democrats did.”
Greene was stripped from severing in all her appointed committee assignments on the House Education & Labor Committee and the Budget Committee in February 2021 following an onslaught of promoting conspiracy theories prior to becoming a Congresswoman on her social media. Eleven Republicans crossed party lines in joining all 219 Democrats in favor of the resolution. Gosar was removed from his committees and censured by the House in November 2021 after posting an anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and President Biden.
Democrats are crying foul, calling the move political revenge. Both Swalwell and Schiff served on the intel panel in the last Congress and Jeffries resubmitted their names for reappointment. In a letter sent to McCarthy on Saturday, Jeffries warned denial of their seats “runs counter to the serious and sober mission of the Intelligence Committee,” while arguing the move is a “double standard” given that “serial fraudster” Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is able to serve on two committees.
“At the same time that Republicans have threatened to deny seats on the Intelligence Committee to clearly qualified Democratic members, serial fraudster George Santos has been placed on two standing committees of the House and welcomed into your conference,” Jeffries wrote. “The apparent double standard risks undermining the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that is so desperately needed in Congress.”
Jefferies also contrasted the blocking of both Democrats to the removal of Gosar and Greene in the last Congress, arguing that a “bipartisan vote of the House found them unfit to serve on standing committees for directly inciting violence against their colleagues.” Schiff and Swalwell, on the other hand, “have never exhibited violent thoughts or behavior.”
During the beginning of the 117th Congress in 2021, McCarthy called for Swalwell to be removed from the panel, but former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended the California Democrat and reappointment him. The move went to a full floor vote, but the Democratic-led House rejected the removal largely along party lines. McCarthy vowed before being elected speaker that he would not seat Swalwell, Schiff along with removing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from House Foreign Affairs Committee over her antisemitic stance.
Unlike most top-standing committees, the House Speaker has unilateral authority to choose who will get to serve on the Select Intelligence Committee and can approve or block House members from the minority party appointments. Removing Omar’s membership from the Foreign Affairs panel would need a majority of the full House chamber votes to block the congresswoman in order to revoke her from serving. McCarthy is preparing to hold a floor vote in the coming weeks on removing Omar from Foreign Affairs
McCarthy formally responded to Jefferies’ letter on Tuesday, informing him that his decision on rejecting Schiff and Swalwell is final, reiterating that the two Democrats’ previous actions make them unfit to serve on the intel panel.
“I appreciate the loyalty you have to your Democrat colleagues… But I cannot put partisan loyalty ahead of national security,” McCarthy wrote in the letter he shared on his Twitter. “As such, in order to maintain a standard worthy of this committee’s responsibilities, I am hereby rejecting the appointments of Representative Adam Schiff and Representative Eric Swalwell to serve on the Intelligence Committee.”
“It is my assessment that the misuse of this panel during the 116th and 117th Congresses severely undermined its primary national security and oversight mission–ultimately leaving our nation less safe,” McCarthy added.
Schiff claims McCarthy kicked off the committee because he “fought him and Donald Trump when they tried to tear down our democracy.”
“His objection seems to be that I was the lead impeachment manager in Donald Trump’s first impeachment and that we held him accountable for withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid from Ukraine in order to try to extort that country into helping his political campaign,” Schiff told reporters Tuesday night.
Schiff, Swalwell, and Omar issued a joint defense statement shortly after McCarthy tweeted his letter, accusing the speaker of “political vengeance” and declaring their removals from the intel committee is “harming our national security in the process.”
“It’s disappointing but not surprising that Kevin McCarthy has capitulated to the right wing of his caucus, undermining the integrity of the Congress, and harming our national security in the process,” the trio said in a joint statement.CongressHouseHouse Intelligence CommitteeRep. Adam SchiffRep. Eric SwalwellRep. Hakeem JeffriesRep. Ilhan OmarSpeaker Kevin McCarthy