WASHINGTON — Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries on Monday asked Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell to continue serving on the House Intelligence Committee, sparking a long-awaited fight with Chairman Kevin McCarthy who has vowed to stop the pair from keeping their seats on the mighty panel.
The move means the relationship between Jeffries, a New Yorker and new minority leader, and McCarthy, a Californian and new GOP chairman, gets off to a bad start.
Members of the Intelligence Panel are selected differently than other congressional committees because it is a “selected” committee. As president, McCarthy has the power to choose a Republican chair and panel members. Jeffries, as Minority Leader, can nominate Democrats to sit on the panel, but McCarthy has the power to dismiss them.
In numerous remarks to the press, McCarthy vowed to do just that in retaliation for the actions of her predecessor, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Democrats in the last Congress. He specifically targeted Schiff and Swalwell who played a major role in the impeachments of former President Donald Trump.
“It is my understanding that you intend to break with the long-standing tradition of the House of Deference to the recommendations of the Minority Party Intelligence Committee and deny seats to Ranking Member Schiff and Representative Swalwell,” he said. writes Jeffries in a letter to McCarthy, officially naming the two Democrats.
“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,” he continued.
Punchbowl News was the first to report on Jeffries’ letter.
Two years ago, Democrats voted to take the rare step and oust ultraconservative Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, from their committees after Greene made racist and anti-Semitic remarks in social media posts and Gosar tweeted an animation that portrayed violence against New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and other Democrats.
“This does not serve as a precedent or justification for the removal of Representatives Schiff and Swalwell, given that they never exhibited violent thoughts or behavior,” Jeffries wrote.
Also in 2021, then-Speaker Pelosi rejected two of McCarthy’s picks — GOP Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks — for the committee she created to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. In response, McCarthy and the Republicans boycotted the select committee and Pelosi nominated two Republicans to serve alongside the Democrats.
These actions angered McCarthy, and for months he vowed to block Schiff and Swalwell from the intelligence panel. Schiff served as the Democrats’ lead prosecutor in the first impeachment, while Swalwell was one of the impeachment officials in the second impeachment focused on Trump’s role in the attack on the Capitol.
As late as January 12, McCarthy told reporters he would not sit Schiff and Swalwell who regularly antagonizes McCarthy during television news appearances. McCarthy specifically called out Swalwell, citing Axios reports that the Democrat was among several California politicians who had been targeted by a Chinese spy.
“Are you going to tell me that other Democrats couldn’t fill this slot?” McCarthy asked reporters. “He can’t get a security clearance in the private sector. So, would you give it government clearance? »
Swalwell said he cooperated with the FBI in their investigation of the spy and did nothing wrong. In a recent interview on MSNBCSwalwell called McCarthy’s threats against him “political revenge.”
A separate battle may soon emerge over a third Democrat, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. After Republicans regained control of the House in November, McCarthy said he would push to remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee “based on his repeated anti-Semitic and anti-American remarks.”
But removing Omar from Foreign Affairs, which is not a select committee, would require a vote of the entire House of Representatives, in the same way Greene and Gosar were removed.
Omar is a Somali refugee and one of the first two Muslim American women to serve in Congress. She blasted McCarthy and the GOP in a statement after McCarthy’s threats.
“McCarthy’s effort to repeatedly single me out for contempt and hatred…gin[s] fear and hatred against Somali Americans and all who share my identity, and further divide us along racial and ethnic lines,” Omar said.
“The apparent double standard risks undermining the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that Congress so desperately needs,” Jeffries wrote.