House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries renominated two California Democrats to serve on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, setting up a clash with Speaker Kevin McCarthy over committee assignments he has vowed to block.
In the last Congress, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) chaired the committee, and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) led its Intelligence Modernization and Readiness Subcommittee, but McCarthy has long signaled that Schiff, Swalwell and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) would lose their committee assignments if he became speaker.
His threat followed moves by his predecessor Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), Democrats and a few Republicans to strip Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) of their committee assignments when Democrats were in control.
“It is my understanding that you intend to break with the longstanding House tradition of deference to the minority party Intelligence Committee recommendations and deny seats to Ranking Member Schiff and Representative Swalwell,” Jeffries wrote in a letter to McCarthy over the weekend. “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.”
Jeffries noted Greene and Gosar were removed from their committee assignments in the last Congress “after a bipartisan vote of the House found them unfit to serve on standing committees for directly inciting violence against their colleagues.”
Greene was removed from her committee assignments in February 2021 over racist rhetoric and supporting violence against Democrats. Gosar faced a similar punishment in November 2021 after posting, and later deleting, a cartoon video with his face superimposed on a character who kills someone with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) face and wields swords against President Biden.
“It does not serve as precedent or justification for the removal of Representatives Schiff and Swalwell, given that they have never exhibited violent thoughts or behavior,” Jeffries said.
McCarthy has accused Schiff, the lead manager during the first impeachment of President Trump, of “lying” to the public about certain details related to a whistleblower report that triggered the investigation, and of dismissing emails found on a laptop allegedly owned by Hunter Biden as a Russian ploy.
McCarthy has argued that Swalwell couldn’t get a security clearance in the private sector following a report that he was targeted by a suspected Chinese spy, with whom he later cut ties.
In a letter earlier this month to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, Schiff wrote that “it is not for Kevin McCarthy to decide to remove Members from Committees based on smears and falsehoods. Whether that means Ilhan Omar or Eric Swalwell or myself, there is no basis for his threatened retaliation other than placating the most extreme members of his party.”
In a separate letter, Swalwell similarly said it “is not for the Speaker to decide to remove Members from committees based on fabricated stories or political revenge.”
McCarthy’s office declined to comment Monday.
McCarthy has the authority to unilaterally reject Democrats nominated to serve on the Intelligence panel because the speaker has the final say over membership of select committees.
Removing Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee would require a full floor vote. Threats to remove Omar from the panel followed antisemitic comments she made and later apologized for.
Greene will serve on the Homeland Security Committee, Gosar will serve on the Natural Resources Committee and both will have a seat on the Oversight and Accountability Committee.
Greene became a top ally of McCarthy and pushed her conservative colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus to support his bid for speaker, which ultimately required 15 votes over four days. Gosar began voting for McCarthy on the 12th ballot.