“It’s not about politics. It’s not like what the Democrats are doing,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday night. “Those members will have other committees, but the Intel committee, the Intel committee’s job is national security. … I respect Hakeem Jeffries’ support of his conference and his people. But integrity matters.“
Unlike most committees, where party leaders control their appointments, the speaker has the final say on who will be on the intelligence team.
McCarthy declined to answer multiple questions about whether he would try to keep the congressman. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee — a move that requires a House majority.
Schiff told reporters that McCarthy’s exclusion from the committee was retaliation for the work he did during Trump’s first impeachment trial and was “backing the dirty water” for Trump.
Republicans have been keen to deny Democrats positions in key groups after the Democratic-led House voted to remove representatives in the last Congress. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) from their committee assignments. Greene had previously spoken in favor of violence against prominent Democrats, while Gosar posted an animated video on social media depicting the killing of the congressman. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Some Republicans joined Democrats in voting to remove them from committee seats.
“Green and Gosar were removed after a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives found them unfit to serve on standing committees directly inciting violence against their colleagues,” Jeffries wrote in the letter. “This cannot serve as a precedent or justification for the removal of Congressmen Schiff and Swalwell because they never exhibited violent thoughts or actions.”
McCarthy in his formal response He told Jeffries on Tuesday that he could not “put partisan loyalty over national security” and accused Democrats of abusing the panel over the past two congressional terms. McCarthy claimed that, under Democratic control, the panel “undermines its primary national security and surveillance mission and ultimately makes our country less safe.”
In a joint statement released Tuesday after McCarthy’s announcement, Schiff, Omar and Swalwell said they found it “disappointing, but not surprising” that McCarthy was trying to block their participation in the committee mandate. They accused him of “undermining the integrity of Congress and compromising our national security in the process.”
“He made a corrupt deal in desperation, almost lost, trying to win the speakership, a deal that required political revenge against the three of us,” he said, referring to McCarthy’s negotiations with the far right. His party is in his long-running fight for speakership.