Democrats name Schiff and Swalwell to Intelligence committee despite McCarthy


WASHINGTON — Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries on Monday tapped Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell to continue serving on the House Intelligence Committee, teeing up a long-anticipated fight with Speaker Kevin McCarthy who has vowed to block the pair from keeping their seats on the powerful panel.

The move means that the relationship between Jeffries, a New Yorker and new minority leader, and McCarthy, a Californian and new GOP speaker, is getting off to a rocky start.

Members of the Intelligence panel are selected differently than other congressional committees because it is a “select” committee. As speaker, McCarthy has the authority to choose a chairman and Republican members of the panel. Jeffries, as minority leader, can nominate Democrats to serve on the panel, but McCarthy has the power to reject them.

In numerous remarks to the press, McCarthy has promised to do just that in retribution for actions by his predecessor, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the Democrats in the last Congress. He has specifically targeted Schiff and Swalwell who played a major role in the impeachments of former President Donald Trump.

“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, officially nominating the two Democrats.

“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,” he continued.

Punchbowl News was first to report on the Jeffries letter.

Two years ago, Democrats voted to take the rare step and oust ultraconservative Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., from their committees after Greene made racist and anti-Semetic remarks in social media posts and Gosar tweeted an animation that depicted violence against New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and other Democrats.

“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 wrote.

Also in 2021, then-Speaker Pelosi rejected two of McCarthy’s picks — GOP Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks — for the committee she created to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. In response, McCarthy and the Republicans boycotted the select committee, and Pelosi named two Republicans to serve alongside the Democrats.

Those actions angered McCarthy and for months he has vowed to block Schiff and Swalwell from the Intelligence panel. Schiff served as Democrats’ lead prosecutor during the first impeachment, while Swalwell was one of the impeachment managers during the second impeachment focused on Trump’s role in the Capitol attack.

As recently as Jan. 12, McCarthy told reporters he would not seat Schiff and Swalwell who regularly antagonize McCarthy during cable news appearances. McCarthy specifically called out Swalwell, citing Axios reporting that the Democrat was among several California politicians who had been targeted by a Chinese spy. 

“You’re going to tell me that other Democrats couldn’t fill that slot?” McCarthy asked reporters. “He cannot get a security clearance in the private sector.  So would you like to give him a government clearance?”

Swalwell has said he cooperated with the FBI in its investigation into the spy and didn’t do anything wrong. During a recent interview on MSNBC, Swalwell called McCarthy’s threats against him nothing more than “political vengeance.”

A separate battle could soon emerge over a third Democrat, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. After Republicans won back control of the House in November, McCarthy said he would push to remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee “based on her repeated antisemitic and anti-American remarks.”

But removing Omar from Foreign Affairs, which is not a select committee, would require a vote of the full House of Representatives, similar to how Greene and Gosar were removed.

Omar is a Somali refugee and one of the first two Muslim American women to serve in Congress. She blasted McCarthy and the GOP in a statement after McCarthy’s threats.

“McCarthy’s effort to repeatedly single me out for scorn and hatred … gin[s] up fear and hate against Somali-Americans and anyone who shares my identity, and further divide us along racial and ethnic lines,” Omar said.

In his letter Monday, Jeffries also used the opportunity to call out “serial fraudster” Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., for being seated on committees while Democratic members could lose their places.

“The apparent double standard risks undermining the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that is so desperately needed in Congress,” Jeffries wrote.

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