WASHINGTON (AP) — On Monday, Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries appointed Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell to the House Intelligence Committee, setting up a long-anticipated showdown with Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has vowed to keep the pair off the powerful panel.
The move means that the relationship between Jeffries, the new minority leader from New York, and McCarthy, the new Republican speaker from California, is off to a rocky start.
Because the Intelligence Committee is a “select” committee, its members are chosen differently than those of other congressional committees. McCarthy, as speaker, has the authority to appoint a chairman and Republican members. As minority leader, Jeffries can nominate Democrats, but McCarthy has the authority to reject them.
McCarthy has repeatedly promised to do so in retaliation for actions taken by his predecessor, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the Democrats during the previous Congress. He has singled out Schiff and Swalwell, both of whom played key roles in the impeachment of former President Donald Trump.
“I understand you intend to break with the longstanding House tradition of deference to minority party Intelligence Committee recommendations and deny seats to Ranking Member Schiff and Representative Swalwell,” Jeffries wrote in a letter to McCarthy, officially nominating the two Democrats.
“The denial of seats to duly elected members of the House Democratic Caucus runs counter to the Intelligence Committee’s serious and sober mission.” “He went on.
The Jeffries letter was first reported on by Punchbowl News.
Democrats voted to remove ultraconservative Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., from their committees two years ago after Greene made racist and antisemitic remarks on social media and Gosar tweeted an animation depicting violence against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York and other Democrats.
“Given that Representatives Schiff and Swalwell have never displayed violent thoughts or behaviour, it does not serve as precedent or justification for their removal.” “Jeffries put pen to paper.
Also in 2021, Pelosi rejected two of McCarthy’s picks for the committee she formed to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, GOP Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana. McCarthy and the Republicans boycotted the select committee in response, and Pelosi appointed two Republicans to serve alongside the Democrats.
McCarthy was enraged by these actions, and he has vowed for months to remove Schiff and Swalwell from the Intelligence Committee. During the first impeachment, Schiff was the Democrats’ lead prosecutor, and Swalwell was one of the impeachment managers during the second impeachment, which focused on Trump’s role in the Capitol attack.
McCarthy told reporters on Jan. 12 that he would not seat Schiff and Swalwell, who frequently criticise McCarthy on cable news. McCarthy singled out Swalwell, citing an Axios report that he was among several California politicians targeted by a Chinese spy.
“Are you going to tell me that no other Democrats could fill that position?” McCarthy inquired of reporters. “In the private sector, he cannot obtain a security clearance. So, do you want to give him government clearance?”
Swalwell has stated that he assisted the FBI in its investigation of the spy and did nothing wrong. Swalwell described McCarthy’s threats as “political vengeance” in a recent interview with MSNBC.
A separate battle could erupt over a third Democrat, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. McCarthy announced his intention to remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee after Republicans regained control of the House in November, citing her “repeated antisemitic and anti-American remarks.”
However, removing Omar from Foreign Affairs, which is not a select committee, would require a vote of the entire House, as Greene and Gosar were. And, given the fragile Republican majority, there is no guarantee that McCarthy will be able to limit GOP defections and oust Omar.
Omar is a Somali refugee who is one of only two Muslim American women in Congress. Following McCarthy’s threats, she blasted McCarthy and the GOP in a statement.
“McCarthy’s effort to single me out for scorn and hatred… “It instils fear and hatred in Somali-Americans and anyone who shares my identity, further dividing us along racial and ethnic lines,” she said.
McCarthy’s threat against Schiff and his Democratic colleagues, Schiff said in an MSNBC interview Monday night, was “payback” for Greene’s removal from committees during her first term.
“This is Kevin McCarthy’s promise to the Marjorie Taylor Greenes in order to earn their vote,” Schiff explained to MNSBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. “And this is Kevin McCarthy’s basic math problem: He can’t remain speaker unless he does the dirty work of his conference’s most extreme elements.”
In his letter, Jeffries also chastised Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., calling him a “serial fraudster” for serving on committees while Democratic members could lose their seats.
“The apparent double standard risks undermining the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that Congress so desperately needs,” Jeffries wrote.