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It Looks Like There's Going to Be a Jeffries-McCarthy Showdown Over Committee Assignments

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), long before he took on the role, has been clear that he was going to remove Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from their committee assignments. He's also continued to double down that that's what he intends to do. Yet House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has still selected Swalwell and Schiff for the House Intelligence Committee, according to a letter obtained by Punchbowl News. Omar will be named to the House Foreign Affairs Committee later in the week.

As Punchbowl's Monday morning newsletter also covered, Swalwell, Schiff, and Omar had also requested these assignments, despite McCarthy being clear on his stance. 

McCarthy does indeed have the power to veto Swalwell and Schiff's role on the committee. As mentioned in Punchbowl's newsletter:

As speaker, McCarthy can simply refuse to allow Schiff and Swalwell on the Intelligence panel. The full House will have to vote to remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs panel. Democrats are finalizing their committee assignments this week, meaning a House floor vote on Omar isn’t likely before next week.

Schiff does not appear to have recognized McCarthy's power as speaker, though. For the newsletter also cites a January 3 letter from the congressman who is looking to serve as the ranking member, after previously serving as its chairman:

In his Jan. 3 letter to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, Schiff wrote “it is not for Kevin McCarthy to decide to remove Members from Committees based on smears and falsehoods. Whether that means Ilhan Omar or Eric Swalwell or myself, there is no basis for his threatened retaliation other than placating the most extreme members of his party.”

With the House now under Republican control, it is likely that they will get a majority voting to remove Omar, though Democratic support is less likely. Jeffries, as have Democratic allies in the mainstream media, have emphasized that removing Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from their committees during previous sessions of Congress was a bipartisan vote. 

In the case of removing the latter, 11 Republicans joined the Democratic members in such a vote. With Gosar, though, only two Republicans joined, former Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who are no longer in office.

While McCarthy's plan to remove the three embattled Democratic members from their committees is seen as retribution, he also has cause. McCarthy has emphasized his reasons at length, as it applies to security clearances with Swalwell, lies Schiff told about the Ukrainian whistleblower, and Omar's antisemitism, which has largely been dismissed by her Democratic colleagues. 

As Jeffries mentioned at one point in his letter:

Appointments to the Intelligence Committee are within the prerogative of the Speaker, in consultation with the Democratic Leader. 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. 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.

McCarthy has pointed out before to the press, however, that he differs from former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) when it comes to committee assignments. "You will find the fundamental difference of me being a Speaker and Nancy Pelosi: The other side will get to name their members on the committee. It won’t be handpicked by me and denying the Democrats their voice," he said at a press conference earlier this month.

Jeffries' letter also takes issue with embattled Rep. George Santos (R-NY) being handed committee assignments, who last week was placed on the House Committee on Small Business and the House House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. McCarthy had previously made clear that Santos would not be on top committees, and Santos, whom Jeffires in his letter referred to as a "serial fraudster," did not receive the placements of House Committee on Financial Services or the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as he reportedly had wanted.

McCarthy had also addressed Santos in that same press briefing from earlier this month. "You asked me questions about Santos. You ask the questions about Swalwell? Not only was he getting a clearance, he was inside an intel committee. He had more information than the majority of all the members. Did you ever raise that issue? No. But you should have," he told the press.

Although the Democratic members in question have not yet tweeted about the letter it appears, it's likely only a matter of time before they address the issue. Swalwell, in particular, has made himself into a martyr over McCarthy's long-stated intentions, as Townhall has covered.

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