Democrats itch for fight with GOP on expelling lawmakers from committees
House Democrats want to fight the GOP majority over who should be assigned to which committee. They have chosen Eric Swalwell (Calif.), and Adam Schiff (Calif.), to join the Intelligence Committee despite Republican promises to keep them from the powerful panel.
Another similar confrontation is likely to occur over Rep. Ilhanomar, the third-term Minnesota lawmaker, who is expected to be elected by Democrats to the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week, despite GOP promises not to remove her from the panel.
The Democrats’ actions and the inevitable clashes that they are certain to spark indicate that party leaders are confident that the public debate over disqualifying behavior will work in their favor, especially after Republicans gave two committee seats to Rep. George Santos. Santos is a New York freshman currently under fire for lying about his past and asking questions about his finances.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., nominated Swalwell and Schiff to the Intelligence Committee. He also made sure to name-check Santos. He highlighted his new posts on the committee and attacked GOP leaders for elevating “serial fraudsters” to the panels.
Jeffries wrote Jan. 21 to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R.Calif.): “The apparent double-standard risks undermining spirit of bipartisan collaboration that is so desperately needed within Congress.”
As the controversy surrounding Santos shifts from one that centers on his resume fabrications to one that involves more serious questions about campaign finances, some Republicans are calling for Santos’ resignation from Congress. Party leaders dismissed these concerns and nominated Santos last week for two committee assignments, the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the House Small Business Panel.
McCarthy has himself defended Santos, stating that he was fair elected by Long Island voters and now deserves his representation in Washington. Questions about possible misconduct will be referred to the House Ethics Committee.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has unique rules that allow the Speaker to assign each member. This is unlike other panels. Selections must be made after consultation with the minority leader. However, the final roster needs to be approved by the Speaker. This gives McCarthy the unrestricted authority to reject Jeffries’s recommendations.
This biennial process was a routine rubber stamp and the minorities’ picks were seated without any controversy.
These dynamics have changed since 2021 when Democrats successfully voted to remove two Republicans, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia and Paul Gosar in Arizona, from their respective committee assignments.
This feud was further aggravated by Nancy Pelosi (D.Calif.), former Speaker, vetoing two of McCarthy’s picks as members of the select panel that would investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021. It was this move that caused McCarthy to abandon the probe.
McCarthy has since vowed not to allow Swalwell and Schiff to return to the Intelligence Panel — a promise he made on Capitol Hill when he accused them of politicizing the panel.
McCarthy stated, “I am doing exactly what we are supposed to do.”
Each lawmaker is unique in the accusations that Republicans level against Schiff and Swalwell.
Schiff was the former chairman of Intelligence Committee and had been the leader in investigations into Trump’s ties with Russia. He also managed Trump’s first impeachment. This revolved around allegations that Trump used U.S. military assistance to press Ukrainian leaders to investigate his political rivals. During those investigations, Republicans accused Schiff of lying about the facts.
Republicans point to Swalwell’s association with a Chinese spy suspected of helping fundraise for Swalwell’s 2014 reelection campaign. This episode was first published publicly in 2020. Swalwell was informed by the FBI that he was concerned and he severed all ties to the Chinese national who fled to Beijing. However, this has not stopped the Republicans from accusing Swalwell as a national security threat.
McCarthy stated this month to reporters that Swalwell would not be allowed on any committee if he had received the FBI briefing.
The GOP claims have been repeatedly refuted by fact-checkers. Democrats claim that McCarthy’s threats were just one of many concessions he made to conservative detractors who tried to deny him earlier in the month.
In an interview with MSNBC, Schiff stated Monday that Kevin McCarthy was once again catering to right-wing elements at his conference and following the will of the former President. “It’s just another destruction of our norms, and, I believe, deterioration in our democracy.”
In his letter to McCarthy Jeffries sought to differentiate between the standards of each party when it comes to committee removals. He noted that Greene and Gosar were both removed by a vote in the full House following revelations they had supported violence against Democrats. Jeffries stressed that both votes had some Republican support.
Jeffries wrote that both Democrats and Republicans took this action due to the seriousness and aftermath of a violent attack on Capitol Hill. It does not serve to establish precedent or justify the removal of Representatives Schiff or Swalwell because they have never displayed violent thoughts or behavior.
Jeffries did everything possible to get McCarthy to accept the nomination of the California Democrats.
According to Intelligence Committee rules rank-and-file members can only serve four terms — a limit Swalwell has reached — so Jeffries could have replaced Swalwell by a less controversial Democrat. He instead waived the term limit to force McCarthy into taking the bold step of intervening against Swalwell’s removal from the panel. Schiff, the ranking member of the panel, is exempted from the cap.
It is not clear when McCarthy will make the announcement about his expected decision to block the pair. On Monday, the Speaker was visiting Florida for an annual gathering with GOP leaders. A spokesperson did not respond to a request seeking comment.
According to sources familiar with the plans of the Democrats, Omar, one the three Muslim lawmakers in Congress will be joining the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee to finish the party’s committee rosters.
Minnesota Democrat is a Somali refugee who has been harshly critical of the Israeli government. In