Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday formally blocked Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee and is expected to hold a floor vote to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the chamber’s foreign affairs panel, moves that the Democratic lawmakers slammed as “political vengeance.”
“It’s disappointing but not surprising that Kevin McCarthy has capitulated to the right wing of his caucus, undermining the integrity of the Congress, and harming our national security in the process,” the Democrats said in a joint statement, calling the push to keep them off committees the product of a “corrupt bargain” that the Republican leader struck “in his desperate, and nearly failed, attempt to win the speakership.”
“Despite these efforts, McCarthy won’t be successful,” the lawmakers added. “We will continue to speak out against extremism and doggedly defend our democracy.”
The House speaker has final authority over who sits on the Intelligence Committee, allowing McCarthy (R-Calif.) to unilaterally block Schiff (D-Calif.) and Swalwell (D-Calif.) from the panel even after Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) requested that they be reappointed.
But a floor vote will be required to remove Omar from her spot on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which she has used to grill officials on the sordid history of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, speak out against military intervention, and advocate for global human rights.
Omar has argued that the GOP push to strip her committee assignments is rooted in bigotry.
“I do not actually think that he has a reason outside of me being Muslim and thinking I should not be,” Omar said of McCarthy earlier this month.
Sumayyah Waheed, senior policy counsel at Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights group, said in a recent interview with HuffPost that “by stripping Rep. Omar of her committees, McCarthy kills two birds with one stone: He attempts to silence an effective, principled voice on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and he stokes the ugly culture of anti-Muslim hate for cheap political points.”
McCarthy and other Republicans have also falsely accused Omar of antisemitism, an allegation that has drawn backlash from progressive Jewish organizations.
“We categorically reject the suggestion that any of her policy positions or statements merit disqualification from her role on the committee,” Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Habonim Dror North America, J Street, New Israel Fund, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and T’ruah said in a statement last month.
“McCarthy’s pledge seems especially exploitative in light of the rampant promotion of antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories by him and his top deputies amid a surge in dangerous right-wing antisemitism,” the groups added. “He posted (and later deleted) a tweet charging that George Soros and two other billionaires of Jewish descent were seeking to ‘buy’ an election. His newly elected Whip Tom Emmer said the same people ‘essentially bought control of Congress.’ Meanwhile, Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik has promoted the deadly antisemitic ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory.”
McCarthy has even faced some pushback from members of his caucus who oppose removing Omar and other Democrats from their committee seats.
“Two wrongs do not make a right,” Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) said in a statement Tuesday, pointing to House Democrats’ decision in 2021 to remove Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from committees for promoting odious conspiracy theories and violence.
Both far-right Republicans have been reinstated to committees under the new House GOP majority.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) has also signaled she would vote against removing Omar from committees.
As for Schiff and Swalwell, McCarthy claimed in a letter to Jeffries on Tuesday that the two Democrats participated in the “misuse” of the House Intelligence Committee during the 116th and 117th sessions of Congress.
The Washington Post reported that “McCarthy has argued that both Schiff and Swalwell are unfit to serve on the committee, using Schiff’s work conducting the first impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump and Swalwell’s alleged ties to a Chinese intelligence operative. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing in relation to the allegation against Swalwell.”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Schiff accused McCarthy of “carrying the dirty water” for the twice-impeached former president.
“This is petty, political payback for investigating Donald Trump,” Schiff added on Twitter.