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McCarthy again vows to keep Schiff, Swalwell off of House Intel Committee

By Sarah May on
 January 13, 2023

In the wake of his lengthy, but ultimately successful battle for the speaker's gavel, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is reiterating his commitment to preventing Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA), both major players in former President Donald Trump's impeachment processes, from holding seats on the House Intelligence Committee, as The Hill reports.

McCarthy is fulfilling a pledge made a year ago to oust the controversial Democrats –along with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) – if the GOP reclaimed the House in the 2022 midterms, as the New York Post noted, and based on comments the new speaker made this week, he has every intention of keeping his word.

Following through

Speaking with reporters Thursday, McCarthy doubled down on his belief that Schiff and Swalwell were unfit to serve on the prestigious intel panel, suggesting that removing them is simply a matter of restoring the committee's proper focus.

“What I am doing with the Intel Committee [is] bringing it back to the jurisdiction it's supposed to do. Forward-looking to keep this country safe, keep the politics out of it,” McCarthy said.

“So yes,” the speaker added, “I'm doing exactly what we're supposed to do.”

Suggesting that Swalwell, who has been accused of a prior entanglement in a relationship with a suspected Chinese spy, poses a particularly serious risk to national security, McCarthy declared, “If you got the briefing I got from the FBI, you wouldn't have Swalwell on any committee,” as the Washington Examiner noted.

The elimination of Schiff from a role on the Intelligence Committee stems from his outspoken and arguably dishonest conduct during the Trump—Russia collusion probe as well as the two impeachment proceedings initiated against the former president.

Referencing Schiff's repeated – and unsubstantiated – claims to have seen smoking gun evidence of Trump's wrongdoing, McCarthy said of the congressman, “He put America – for four years – through an impeachment that he knew was a lie.”

Omar's ouster

Also on the chopping block in terms of committee assignments is far-left Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, whom McCarthy is reportedly poised to remove from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Omar has long courted controversy and criticism for a host of disparaging comments she has made about the state of Israel specifically and Jews in general, conduct that has drawn accusations of blatant antisemitism over the years.

Though McCarthy's Thursday remarks to reporters omitted any mention of Omar and were concentrated mainly on Swalwell and Schiff, the speaker is said to have confirmed plans to boot the Minnesota lawmaker to the GOP conference earlier this week.

That proposition was verified by Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas, who tweeted following the conference meeting, “Speaker McCarthy confirms that Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Ilhan Omar are getting kicked off the Intel and Foreign Affairs Committees.”

As The Hill noted, McCarthy, by virtue of his position as speaker, has the authority to unilaterally take Schiff and Swalwell off of the intelligence panel, given that it is a select committee, but will need Republican lawmakers to bring a resolution to the House floor to achieve the removal of Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Turnabout is fair play

The Hill further noted that the two major parties in Congress continue to “clash over the legitimacy of stripping committees from the three targeted Democrats,” Republicans have pointed out that they are simply following precedent set by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in the last Congress.

Specifically, in early 2021, Pelosi and House Democrats voted to oust Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from her seats on the Education and Budget committees due to their belief that she had aligned herself with a number of conspiracy theories and advocated for violence against fellow legislators, as the New York Post noted at the time.

Later that year, Pelosi oversaw the ouster of Republican Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ) from his committee seats, due to a controversial animated video he posted on social media depicting attacks on liberal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and President Joe Biden.

McCarthy observed at the time, “The Democrats have created a new thing where they're picking and choosing who could be on a committee. Never in the history [of Congress] have you had the majority tell the minority who could be on committee, but this new standard, which these Democrats have voted for – if Eric Swalwell cannot get a security clearance in the private sector, there's no reason why he should be given one to be on Intel or Homeland Security.”

When asked by MSNBC host Joy Reid this week whether McCarthy's decision to remove the aforementioned Democrats from their committees was being done out of simple vengeance, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) pointedly referenced prior precedent by replying succinctly, “No, if you want to change the rules then we'll live by your rules.”