GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is getting ready to exercise his authority under congressional rules and procedures to remove three vocal Democrats from key committees when Republicans take power next year.
Normally, Democrat and GOP leaders nominate members of their party to various House committees, and those members are approved when the House passes a resolution appointing the members in a simple majority vote.
In the past, these appointments have not been controversial, and only a handful of members were refused committee assignments or had been removed from committees, usually because of ethics violations.
However, McCarthy has pledged to block Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; and Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., from continuing to serve on some of their current committees based on the positions they have taken. McCarthy has the authority to stop those appointments because Republicans will be in the majority again starting next year.
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One way of stopping these appointments is to have Republicans vote down any resolution that would place any of the three Democrats onto a committee where McCarthy does not want them.
However, even if Republicans are divided on whether to carry out this punishment, McCarthy can still block the resolution from coming to the floor until Democrats relent and pull the assignments. Democrats have little recourse to fight against such tactics, given the extensive powers available to the majority party in the House.
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Republicans argue that Schiff, Omar and Swalwell have each done something disqualifying to warrant the punishment. McCarthy said Sunday that Schiff has “lied to the American public time and again” about former President Donald Trump working with Russia during the 2016 election, and thus should not serve on the House Intelligence Committee.
McCarthy said Omar must be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee over her criticism of Israel that some see as antisemitic, and Swalwell should not serve on the House Intelligence Committee because of his association with a Chinese spy.
“Washington now has a check and balance,” said McCarthy. “The American people have a say in their government.”
Democrats have already been criticizing McCarthy’s plans. “The focus of Congress should be getting things done for the American people, not removing members from committee assignments to exact partisan revenge,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill.
However, McCarthy’s move would follow a similar decision from Democrats to remove two Republican lawmakers from their committees last year. House Democrats voted to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., from her seats on the Budget and Education committees in February 2021. At the time, Democrats argued that controversial social media posts made by Greene before she became a member of Congress were justification for the decision.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used a similar argument in November 2021 when pushing through a resolution removing Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., from the House Oversight and Natural Resources Committees. Gosar had come under fire for sharing an animated video depicting violence against Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
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In both cases, Gosar and Greene publicly apologized for their conduct on the House floor, but were still removed from their committees. Republicans say the decisions were a prime example of House Democrats abusing their power.
“When Democrats do it, it’s about democracy,” said Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., but “when Republicans do the [same], it’s fear-mongering.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told WHD News Digital that the GOP’s argument was not fair or accurate.
“House Democrats took action to remove members from committees who threatened violence against colleagues because Leader McCarthy refused to take any action or hold those members accountable,” said Hoyer. “His words are symptomatic of a Republican House leadership that remains in the grasp of Donald Trump and MAGA extremists.”
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Apart from booting Democrats from committees, McCarthy is also poised to overhaul the way in which the House operates. Most notably, Republicans will end the proxy voting system that has allowed lawmakers to vote on legislation despite not being in Washington.
McCarthy is also expected to dismantle the House select committee on the climate crisis and the special panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol. Both panels have drawn criticism from Republicans since their creation by outgoing House Speaker Pelosi.