WASHINGTON – GOP Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday he would not seat fellow California Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff to the House Intelligence Committee, keeping a promise he made to conservatives on the campaign trail.
“I will put national security ahead of partisan politics,” he said during a news conference.
McCarthy has said Swalwell likely would be denied a security clearance in the private sector and accused Schiff of lying to the public, claiming they are not fit to serve on the committee that handles classified information.
Democrats say it’s political revenge. Both California Democrats served on the panel in the last Congress and Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., has asked that they be reappointed, Unlike most standing committees, the speaker chooses who serves on the Select Intelligence Committee.
McCarthy said it’s not political and that Schiff and Swalwell could be seated on other committees, but not Intelligence.
Why isn’t McCarthy seating Schiff and Swalwell?
Before he was elected speaker, McCarthy said he would not seat Schiff on the Intelligence committee, claiming he lied to Americans as chairman of the panel that led the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump in 2019.
McCarthy said he would not seat Swalwell because of the congressman’s previous ties to a suspected Chinese spy.
In 2021, McCarthy first called for Swalwell’s removal from the committee but the Democrat-led House rejected the move largely along party lines.
Why Democrats say the McCarthy move with Schiff and Swalwell is revenge
In a letter Saturday, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries told McCarthy any denial of seats “runs counter to the serious and sober mission of the Intelligence Committee.
He also contrasted the removal of Schiff and Swalwell to the removal of GOP Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia in the last Congress.
The Democratic-led House, with the help of some Republicans, voted to remove Gosar and Greene from committees in the last session.
Reinstated Republicans: Greene, Gosar reinstated to committees by GOP-led House after Democrats had removed them
The comparison to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar
Gosar was censured and removed from committees in November 2021 after posting an animated video that depicted violence against Biden and the killing of progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He was stripped of his seats on the Natural Resources and Oversight & Reform committees.
Greene was removed in February 2021 for a number of inflammatory posts on social media. She had embraced QAnon conspiracy theories and made past comments that the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks didn’t happen. She was ousted from seats on the Budget Committee as well as the Education and Labor panel.
Both Greene and Gosar have been restored to committees in the new Republican-led House.
Jeffries argued in his letter to McCarthy that “a bipartisan vote of the House found them unfit to serve on standing committees for directly inciting violence against their colleagues.”
Schiff and Swalwell, on the other hand, “have never exhibited violent thoughts or behavior.”
What McCarthy said to Jeffries in a letter
McCarthy formally responded to Jeffries in a letter Tuesday night, telling him “integrity matters more” than length of service on the committee and that he is rejecting Schiff and Swalwell.
“It is my assessment that the misuse of this panel during the 116th and 117th Congresses severely undermined its primary national security and oversight mission–ultimately leaving our nation less safe,” McCarthy said in the letter.
He said he’s committed to returning the committee “to one of genuine honesty and credibility that regains the trust of the American people.”
In a response issued late Tuesday, Schiff said McCarthy kicked off the committee because “I fought him and Donald Trump when they tried to tear down our democracy. If he thinks this will stop me, he will soon find out differently.”
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Candy Woodall is a Congress reporter for USA TODAY. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.