McCarthy formally blocks Schiff, Swalwell from Intel panel

On Tuesday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R.Calif.), officially disqualified two Democrats — Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell (Calif.). This escalated the two-year-old tit-fortat battle between the sides over who is qualified to fill certain positions on Capitol Hill.

Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., House Minority Leader, had written to McCarthy Saturday asking for both Swalwell and Schiff to be seated on Intel’s panel. Membership assignments are made at the Speaker’s sole discretion.

McCarthy stated that Swalwell and Schiff’s past actions render them ineligible to serve on a panel that has access to sensitive national security issues.

He wrote to Jeffries on Tuesday, “In order to keep a standard worthy the committee’s responsibilities,”.

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It was not surprising.

Republicans have been agitating over this issue since 2021 when Democrats voted to remove GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia and Paul Gosar in Arizona from their committees after they were revealed as having supported violence against their Democratic colleagues. McCarthy refused to sanction either lawmaker within the GOP conference. This is where such disciplinary actions are usually taken out.

McCarthy denied Tuesday that his decision about Schiff and Swalwell was revenge for Greene or Gosar.

“This is not political. McCarthy stated that this is not the same as what the Democrats did on Tuesday night, just outside his Capitol office.

Schiff, who was the former chairman, Intelligence Committee had led several investigations into Trump. He also served as the lead impeachment manger for Trump’s first impeachment. This elevated Trump’s national profile and made him more radioactive among Trump supporters.

McCarthy accused Trump of lying to the public regarding Trump’s ties with Russia. Schiff dismissed this accusation as political retribution.

Schiff said Tuesday night that Trump’s objection seemed to be that he was the lead impeachment manger in Donald Trump’s first impeachment. He also claimed that we held him responsible for withholding hundreds million dollars in military aid from Ukraine to extort that nation into supporting his campaign.

Schiff noted that McCarthy’s path to the Speakership was only possible after he gained the support of his former critics, Greene, who charged that McCarthy had become dependent on conservatives.

Schiff stated, “I believe it’s just another blow to Congress, that it’s behaving in this way, but that it shows just how weakly he is as Speaker that he must give in to extreme elements of his conference in this case, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, and the Paul Gosars.”

Swalwell is the subject of different accusations. California Democrat Swalwell was linked to a Chinese spy suspected of having fundraised for his 2014 campaign. This revelation was not made public until 2020. McCarthy claims that he was convinced by a confidential FBI briefing that Swalwell was a national security threat.

McCarthy stated to reporters that Eric Swalwell would be working in the private sector, and therefore cannot get security clearance. McCarthy said that he was not going to give him the secrets of America.

McCarthy also promised to stop Rep. Ilhan Olmar (D.Minn.), from sitting on House Foreign Affairs Committee. This is in rebuke to previous comments she made about Israel and its supporters. Some of these remarks have been accused of antisemitism. The congresswoman, a Somali refugee, apologized for suggesting wealthy Jews were buying congressional support.

Omar’s situation is, however, different to that of Schiff and Swalwell. McCarthy can unilaterally block appointments to the Intelligence Committee. However, the entire House must ratify Foreign Affairs panel membership to the committee — which means that a majority of the chamber must vote to prevent Omar from serving.

This effort is already being met with resistance. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) Tuesday’s announcement by Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) was that she would not support Omar being removed from the Foreign Affairs committee. Rep. Nancy Mace, R.S.C., expressed her disapproval of the idea.

Republicans can only afford to lose four votes in the narrowly divided House, where there is no Democratic opposition. This means that Omar can be blocked by only two more defectors. If Rep. Greg Steube (R.Fla.), who has been recovering in Florida after a fall, fails to vote, that number could drop to one. On Monday, the congressman said that he would be “sidelined” in Sarasota for several more weeks.

It is not clear when Omar’s vote to remove her from the panel will be brought to the floor. This week, the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee will meet to complete committee assignments. Omar is expected back to the Foreign Affairs Committee. The ratification of the rosters would then fall on the full chamber.

McCarthy answered reporters on Tuesday when he was asked how certain he is of the support needed to keep Omar out of the Foreign Affairs panel. He said that it would be strange for members to not support Omar based on her comments about Israel.

Omar, when asked Tuesday about the character allegations, replied that all of them had been resolved three years ago.

Minutes after McCarthy’s letter was sent, Schiff, Swalwell, and Omar issued a joint defense, tying McCarthy to the right flank.

The trio stated that McCarthy had surrendered to the right wing caucus and undermining the integrity, as well as threatening our national security. He struck a corrupt deal in his desperate and almost failed attempt to win Speakership. This bargain required political revenge against three of us.