Back in 2016, with a presidential election underway, I made the case that Senate Republicans should force Democrats to live under their own power-hungry rules. They should do so, I said, by applying the Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer standards to the newly-created Supreme Court vacancy, following the death of the late great Justice Antonin Scalia. Then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did precisely that, holding the seat open until after the election, paving the way for President Trump's trio of superb SCOTUS nominations. The Democrats got red in the face and stomped their feet, but after decades of hyper-partisan, unilateral escalations in the judicial confirmation wars, they were merely getting a taste of their own medicine.
When Democrats attempted to filibuster Neil Gorsuch's nomination to fill that seat, I urged Republicans to enact the Harry Reid standard and change the Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch. They did so, thus fulfilling McConnell's famous prophesy that his colleagues across the aisle would come to rue the day they'd nuked the filibuster on executive and judicial nominations, for short-term partisan gain (eliminating a tool of the minority they'd abused for years while it benefited them). In Washington, no one squeals louder than a Democrat held to his or her own standards. A few Democrats mumbled about 'regrets' after their GOP colleagues pressed the Reid Rule button, but nearly all Senate Democrats now favor doubling down even further by jettisoning the legislative filibuster, which they've called a racist vestige, even as they've repeatedly used it themselves. Expect some of them to change their tune if and when they lose the Senate majority in 2024. They never fully learn, which is why the teachable moments need to be clear and painful for them.
Which brings us to the current contretemps over committee assignments in the House of Representatives. Democrats are hopping mad that Speaker Kevin McCarthy is moving to boot Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee, and that Ilhan Omar may be stripped of her slot on the Foreign Affairs Committee. We'll see if he has the votes to do so. In the last Congress, Democrats -- then in the majority -- stripped two Republicans of their committee assignments, due to offensive statements they'd made. Dozens of House Democrats, led by the Squad, agitated for another GOP member to lose her committees, as well. At the time, nearly every Republican in Washington, including many of those not inclined to defend their sanctioned colleagues, warned that if Pelosi and her party went down this path, the shoe would end up on the other foot. If Democrats wanted break with tradition and wrest certain committee assignment decisions from the minority party, they would be answered in kind at the earliest opportunity. And here we are. In case you missed it, McCarthy was badgered about his decisions on this front by a journalist this week, using George Santos as the hook for her objections. Conservatives quickly started circulating his response, which Julio wrote up yesterday:
Wow. McCarthy responds to a question about removing Schiff and Swalwell from the Intelligence committees and Santos. pic.twitter.com/f00hE2K21K— Henry Rodgers (@henryrodgersdc) January 25, 2023
As I said on Fox Business, some of this is the 'play stupid games, win stupid prizes' effect. If Democrats didn't want Republican leaders to pick and choose which of their members could serve on certain committees, they should have left those decisions to the GOP in the last Congress. Once the die was cast on the other side, it became inevitable that reprisals would follow:
And because politicians will always find justifications for their moves beyond "they asked for it," there are substantive reasons behind each of these decisions. Omar is an unrepentant bigot. Swalwell is a smarmy mud-flinger who 'became close' with, and was allegedly compromised by, a Chinese spy. He cites news 'fact checks' in his defense, but McCarthy says the FBI briefing he received on the underlying intelligence vindicate his call to keep the California Democrat away from sensitive national secrets. And Adam Schiff used his top perch on the Intelligence Committee to wage partisan war, including repeatedly lying about Trump-Russia "collusion," even after that explosive claim had been debunked by the Mueller investigation. Schiff is angry. Maybe he should have lied less, and maybe he should have told his party not to travel down this path, given the guaranteed tit-for-tat that would ensue If Democrats hadn't meddled in the House GOP's affairs last Congress, McCarthy would probably have let things lie, despite the case against all three (would-be) booted members. But Pelosi and company pried open this Pandora's box, and now they may have to live with the results. Enjoy.