Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) formally rejected two high-profile Democrats from continuing to serve on the House Intelligence Committee.
McCarthy posted on Tuesday a response letter addressed to Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who over the weekend recommended Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) for the panel that has access to the nation’s most sensitive secrets.
I have rejected the appointments of Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell for the House Intelligence Committee.
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) January 25, 2023
“I cannot put partisan loyalty ahead of national security, and I cannot simply recognize years of service as the sole criteria for membership on this essential committee. Integrity matters more,” McCarthy said.
“As such, in order to maintain a standard worthy of this committee’s responsibilities, I am hereby rejecting the appointments of Representative Adam Schiff and Representative Eric Swalwell to serve on the Intelligence Committee,” McCarthy added.
The letter was released shortly after McCarthy and Jeffries reportedly held a meeting. He told reporters Schiff and Swalwell would be able to serve on other committees.
.@SpeakerMcCarthy to reporter: Let me be very clear & respectful to you. You ask me a question when I answer it it's the answer to your question. You don't get to determine whether I answer a question or not, okay? In all respect…what happens in the Intel Cmte you don't know. pic.twitter.com/WD57QB7m1v
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 25, 2023
As speaker, McCarthy has the unilateral authority to block members from the House Intelligence Committee. Even before he took on the role, McCarthy vowed to bump Schiff and Swalwell from the perches they’ve held for years. McCarthy has also talked about removing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from the Foreign Affairs Committee, but that would take a House floor vote to accomplish.
Not everyone in the Republican conference is on board with the push to yank Democrats from their committee assignments. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN), who over the course of 15 ballots for speaker this month voted “present” some of the time, released a statement saying she did not support what she called a “charade.”
McCarthy has accused Schiff, who served as chairman of the committee for four years, of being a repeat liar, particularly with investigations related to former President Donald Trump. The speaker has raised national security concerns with Swalwell because of his intimate ties to an alleged Chinese spy years ago.
“This is petty, political payback for investigating Donald Trump. If he thinks this will stop me, he will soon find out just how wrong he is. I will always defend our democracy,” Schiff tweeted Tuesday evening.
Kevin McCarthy just kicked me and @RepSwalwell off the Intelligence Committee.
This is petty, political payback for investigating Donald Trump.
If he thinks this will stop me, he will soon find out just how wrong he is.
I will always defend our democracy.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) January 25, 2023
“This rejection is based on a claim that the Washington Post independent-fact checker gave 4 Pinocchios,” he tweeted Tuesday. “Speaker [John] Boehner and [Paul] Ryan, both Gang of 8 members, appointed me to Intel with access to the same facts McCarthy is distorting. He can keep me off Intel, but I’m not going away.”
This rejection is based on a claim that the Washington Post independent-fact checker gave 4 Pinocchios. Speaker Boehner and Ryan, both Gang of 8 members, appointed me to Intel with access to the same facts McCarthy is distorting. He can keep me off Intel, but I’m not going away. https://t.co/YQZOVCSJpO
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) January 25, 2023
Jeffries, who replaced Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as leader of the House Democrats this session of Congress, wrote to McCarthy over the weekend arguing that both Schiff and Swalwell were “eminently qualified” to continue serving on the panel.
He noted how bipartisan votes led to Republican members being booted from their committee assignments in recent years. He also brought up “serial fraudster” Rep. George Santos (R-NY) in an attempt to bolster his argument. Republicans opted to give the freshman lawmaker, who has admitted to lying about aspects of his career and personal life, committee assignments despite Santos facing multiple investigations and calls to resign.
“The apparent double standard risks undermining the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that is so desperately needed in Congress,” Jeffries said.
The House Intelligence Committee was long regarded to be an apolitical panel up until it became ground zero for partisan sniping during Trump’s presidency with investigations into the 2016 election, Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, and Ukraine. McCarthy said he wants to redirect the focus away from politics.
“It is my assessment that the misuses of this panel during the 116th and 117th Congresses undermined its primary national security and oversight missions — ultimately leaving our nation less safe,” McCarthy wrote in his letter Tuesday. “Therefore, as we enter a new Congress, I am committed to returning the Intelligence Committee to one of genuine honesty and credibility that regains the trust of the American people.”
McCarthy has already announced the GOP members he picked for the intelligence panel this session of Congress. The chairman will be Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). It was not immediately clear who among the Democrats would round out committee membership.