McCarthy blocks Democrats Schiff and Swalwell from intelligence committee

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) be reappointed to the panel.

McCarthy has argued that Schiff and Swalwell are not suited to serve on the committee, using Schiff’s work leading President Donald Trump’s first impeachment investigation and Swalwell’s alleged ties to a Chinese intelligence agent. There was no evidence of wrongdoing in relation to the allegation against Swalwell.

“This is not political at all. This is not similar to what the Democrats have done,” McCarthy told reporters late on Tuesday. “These members will have other committees, but the Intel committee, the responsibility of the Intel committee is national security. … I respect Hakeem Jeffries’ support of his conference and his people. But integrity is important.

Unlike most committees, where party leaders control their nominees, the speaker has the final say on who makes up the Intelligence panel.

McCarthy declined to answer several questions about whether he will try to block Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from serving on the foreign affairs committee – a move that would require a majority vote on the House floor.

Schiff told reporters that McCarthy was “carrying the dirty water” for Trump by leaving him out of committee as retribution for his work during Trump’s first impeachment trial.

Republicans have been keen to deny Democrats seats on key panels after the Democrat-led House in the last Congress voted to remove Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) from their committee assignments. Greene had previously expressed approval of violence against prominent Democrats, and Gosar posted an animated video on social media that showed the assassination of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.). In ballots to remove them from their committee posts, some Republicans joined Democrats in voting yes.

Greene and Gosar were removed “after a bipartisan House vote found them unfit to serve on standing committees for directly inciting violence against their colleagues,” Jeffries wrote in his letter. “It does not serve as a precedent or justification for the removal of Representatives Schiff and Swalwell, as they never exhibited violent thoughts or behavior.”

McCarthy, in his formal answer to Jeffries on Tuesday, said he cannot “put party loyalty ahead of national security” and accused Democrats of misusing the panel during the last two terms of Congress. McCarthy claimed that under Democratic control, the panel “undermines its core national security and oversight missions, leaving our nation less secure.”

In a joint statement released Tuesday after McCarthy’s announcement, Schiff, Omar and Swalwell said they find it “disappointing but not surprising” that McCarthy tries to keep them off the committee’s mandate. They accused him of “undermining the integrity of Congress and undermining our national security in the process”.

“He made a corrupt bargain in his desperate and near-failed bid to win the presidency, a bargain that exacted political revenge against the three of us,” he said, referring to negotiations McCarthy fought with his party’s far-right flank during his long struggle for the presidency.

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