House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries formally nominated two California Democrats on the Select Committee on Intelligence and is expected to nominate another Democrat on the Foreign Affairs panel, all three of whom Speaker Kevin McCarthy pledged to block.
Mr. Jeffries, New York Democrat, in a letter to Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, on Saturday reappointed to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam B. Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell.
“Together, these Members have over two decades of distinguished leadership providing oversight of our nation’s Intelligence Community, in addition to their prosecutorial work in law enforcement prior to serving in Congress,” Mr. Jeffries wrote in the letter first obtained by Punchbowl News.
Mr. Jeffries acknowledged that appointments to the committee are within the “prerogative of the Speaker, in consultation with the Democratic Leader” and that Mr. McCarthy plans to block Mr. Schiff and Mr. Swalwell from being seated on the panel, which he described as breaking with the “longstanding House tradition of deference to the minority party Intelligence Committee recommendations.”
“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,” Mr. Jeffries wrote.
Mr. McCarthy has repeatedly promised to follow through with removing Mr. Swalwell and Mr. Schiff from their committee assignments since Republicans were poised to take control of the lower chamber. The speaker also named Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, who serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee, for removal.
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The pledge from the California Republican came in retaliation for the Democrats removing two Republicans from their committee assignments in the last Congress, such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona. He also promised a response last Congress after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denied the nominations of Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio to the Jan. 6 committee.
Mr. Jeffries wrote that removing Mr. Gosar and Mrs. Greene from their committees by a vote in the lower chamber was appropriate because lawmakers found them “unfit to serve on standing committees for directly inciting violence against their colleagues.”
“This action was taken by both Democrats and Republicans given the seriousness of the conduct involved, particularly in the aftermath of a violent insurrection and attack on the Capitol,” Mr. Jeffries said. “It does not serve as precedent or justification for the removal of Reps. Schiff and Swalwell, given that they have never exhibited violent thoughts or behavior.”
Mr. McCarthy has cited Mr. Schiff‘s political partisanship on the panel, his references to the “Steele dossier” and its debunked allegations about former President Donald Trump and Russia as reasons for removal.
Mr. Swalwell had close relations with a Chinese spy, with whom he later cut ties after federal investigators informed him of the espionage link.
During a press briefing, Mr. McCarthy told reporters, “If you got the briefing that I got from the FBI, you wouldn’t have Swalwell on any committee.”
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Mr. Swalwell chalked up Mr. McCarthy‘s response as “political vengeance.”
“Kevin McCarthy seems to want to heat up the leftovers of a story that goes back to Barack Obama’s first term. The FBI has said three different times in a rare form that they never talked about the investigations,” he said during an MSNBC interview. “All I did was help them. I was never suspected of wrongdoing.”
Mr. Jeffries noted that, while denying seats to Mr. Swalwell and Mr. Schiff on the Intelligence Committee, the GOP Steering Committee approved first-term Republican Rep. George Santos of New York, who is under multiple investigations for lying about his finances and his biography, for two standing committees.
“The apparent double standard risks undermining the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that is so desperately needed in Congress,” Mr. Jeffries said.