House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Nov. 20 that he will remove two top Democrats from their committee assignments if he becomes speaker of the House.
The two Democrats are Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). On Nov. 19, McCarthy also vowed to remove progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from her committee assignments for past comments about Israel.
Swalwell currently sits on three major House committees: the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, and the Committee on Homeland Security.
Schiff serves as chairman of the Intelligence Committee and is also a member of the controversial Jan. 6 Committee. In the past, Schiff has come under fire for presenting misleading and doctored evidence to the Jan. 6 panel.
Omar is a member of several committees, including the Education and Labor Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee.
During a Nov. 20 appearance on Fox News, McCarthy was asked if he would commit to following through on past comments he has made suggesting that he would strip the three lawmakers of their committee assignments if elected speaker.
“Yes I will, I’ll keep that promise,” McCarthy said.
“One thing I said from the very beginning, Eric Swalwell cannot get a security clearance in the public sector,” McCarthy said, citing a controversy about close ties between Swalwell and a Chinese intelligence operative. “Why would we ever give him a security clearance and the secrets to America? So, I will not allow him to be on Intel.”
McCarthy also explained that he would remove Schiff for having misled the American people on the Jan. 6 panel.
“You have Adam Schiff, who had lied to the American public time and again,” McCarthy said. “We will not allow him to be on the Intel Committee either.”
McCarthy then doubled down on a statement he made the previous day, reiterating his commitment to remove Omar from her committees.
“Last year, I promised that when I became Speaker, I would remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, based on her repeated anti-semitic and anti-American remarks,” McCarthy said in a Nov. 19 tweet. “I’m keeping that promise.”
McCarthy’s comments come as several sitting Republican members of Congress—most prominently Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)—remain booted from their committee assignments. Both were removed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during this Congress.
Technically, McCarthy does not have the power to unilaterally strip members of their committee assignments.
Instead, a majority of the full House must approve such a move.
At the time of publication, the Associated Press has called the House of Representatives for Republicans. Currently, the GOP is sitting just at 218 seats, the minimum number required to be in the majority. Of the handful of races that have not been called, Republicans are leading in four.
If McCarthy overcomes challenges to become speaker, he’ll need the support of all but a handful of his caucus to remove Swalwell, Schiff, or Omar.
Schiff and Swalwell did not reply immediately to a request for comment.
Pelosi Removes Republicans From Committees
Though the move to remove a member from their committee assignments has historically been rare, it is a move that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has used gratuitously during the 117th Congress.
As early as February 2021, barely a month after the 117th Congress sat, Pelosi had Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) removed from her assignments over controversial past comments.
Controversies that led to her removal included past comments Greene had made casting doubt on the official narrative of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as questioning whether some school shootings were government-orchestrated false flag attacks.
The House approved Pelosi’s call to remove Greene from her committees by a vote of 230 to 199. At the time, 11 Republicans voted with Democrats to remove Greene.
Greene has been a major target of liberal critics, who unsuccessfully attempted earlier this year to have her disqualified from seeking reelection because of comments she made about the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally.
Pelosi used the same power to remove Arizona Republican Paul Gosar from his committee assignments.
Gosar’s removal came after the Republican lawmaker posted a cartoon video depicting Democrats like President Joe Biden and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) as monstrous creatures.
The video was an edit of the popular anime “Attack on Titan” series that portrayed Gosar slaying a “Titan”—giant human-eating monster in the show—that was edited to have Ocasio-Cortez’s face.
Gosar insisted at the time that the video was “symbolic,” and emphasized that he had no intention of harming anyone.
McCarthy defended Gosar when Pelosi’s motion to remove Gosar from his committees came to the House floor.
However, Republican leaders did not try to whip up support against the resolution, which was all but guaranteed to pass the Democrat-controlled House. Nevertheless, leaders did recommend that members of their caucus vote against the motion.
McCarthy argued in a House floor speech that the censure was an “abuse of power.”
“Democrats are preparing once again to break another precedent of the United States House of Representatives,” McCarthy said ahead of the vote. “The speaker is burning down the House on her way out the door.”
The Democrats’ true intention in censuring Gosar, said McCarthy, is to “silence dissidence and stack the deck for their radical agenda.”
McCarthy noted Democrats’ unwillingness to censure their own, Omar, after she went to Minneapolis during the summer 2020 riots to encourage rioters to “stay on the streets” and “show them we mean action.”
“This side of the aisle didn’t ask for [Omar] to lose her committee,” McCarthy said. “We simply asked for an apology.”
In an indication that Republicans may follow the precedent set by the censure motion, McCarthy said “What [Democrats] have started cannot be easily undone.”
Omar and others, McCarthy added, “will need the approval of a majority to keep [their committee] positions in the future.”
It is unclear if Republicans will be able to whip up enough support to remove these Democrats from their positions.