House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, likely the house’s next speaker, is sticking to his promise to strip three liberal Democrats of their committee assignments when the new Congress takes its seat next year.
That doesn’t sit well with the Democrats, as they are about to enter the House minority for the first time in four years. One of the legislators McCarthy singled out said was part of a broader Republican campaign of “fear, xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism,” while another said the Republican leader was appealing to the “lowest common denominator” and “if that lowest common denominator wants to get people out of committee, that’s what they will do.
Democrats have employed similar tactics only to see the GOP respond in kind. McCarthy is taking a page from the playbook of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
But Democrats opened the door to the majority party dictating committee membership for minority lawmakers when they voted to remove a controversial Republican lawmaker from their committees last year. By breaking tradition and meddling with committee assignments across the aisle, they had to know they were triggering years of partisan tit-for-tat.
If McCarthy goes ahead, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota will be kicked off the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of California, will be barred from the House Intelligence Committee. All three are strong critics of Trump and liberal lightning rods, with Schiff playing a major role in the impeachment trials against former President Donald Trump as chairman of the intelligence committee.
The moves are in apparent retaliation for the Democratic-controlled House vote, unprecedented in modern history, repealing Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene committee tasks. The vote came after the Georgia Republican was criticized for a variety of inflammatory commentsand the Republican Party conference took no such action on its own.
“The Democrats have created a new thing where they pick and choose who gets to be on the committee,” McCarthy, a Republican from California, said in a interview with the conservative media Breitbart at the beginning of this year. “Never in history [of Congress] Have you had the majority tell the minority who might be on the committee?
McCarthy reiterated his promise to keep Omar out of foreign affairs in a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition over the weekend. “Last year, I promised that when I became a speaker, I would remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee based on her repeated anti-Semitic and anti-American comments,” McCarthy. later tweeted. “I am keeping that promise.”
Omar has been reprimanded, including by members of his own partyby the use of language some saw as perpetuate negative stereotypes of Jews in harsh comments about Israel, so she He apologized. She recently said that McCarthy is unfairly targeting her and that Republicans “have openly tolerated anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and racism in their own party.”
Historically, House committee assignments are largely determined by the two parties and their steering committees. Simply put, the majority party chooses its committee members and the minority party does the same. Under that arrangement, the parties have been responsible for policing their own, such as when Republicans voted to deny the then representative. Steve King, R-Iowa, committee assignments after he made widely condemned comments about white supremacy and white nationalism.
“We will not seat Steve King on any committee in the 116th Congress. It was a unanimous decision,” McCarthy, already the highest-ranking Republican leader in the House, told reporters at the time. He added: “I think we spoke very loud and clear that we will not tolerate this type of language in the Republican Party.”
Democrats hoped the same would be true when it came to Greene’s language on QAnon, conspiracy theories, including some considered anti-Semitic, and political violence. republicans considered punishing her by taking her committee assignmentsbut green He apologized for some of his worst statements, and his colleagues gave way. She later he visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and He apologized for comparing House Covid’s mask-wearing rules to the laws of Nazi Germany.
“The above comments by and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene about school shootings, political violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference,” McCarthy said at the time. “I condemn those comments unequivocally. I condemned them in the past. I continue to condemn them today.”
But Republicans made no changes to Greene’s committee seats. Then the Chamber intervened in full. The Democrats, as the majority party, had the votes to prevail, and Greene was expelled from her committee.
Now the Democrats do not have a majority. In a period of political polarization, it was always predictable that this precedent would be used to go beyond removing members they viewed as particularly extremist and extend to lawmakers pushing the other side’s fundraising emails. Especially since the Democrats have employed similar tactics only to see the GOP respond in kind.
McCarthy is taking a page from the playbook of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. After Democrats began to filibuster Republican federal judicial nominees under President George W. Bush, McConnell responded by filibustering President Barack Obama and escalated all the way to nearly one year lock of Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
When the Senate Democrats removed the filibuster for lower courts to facilitate confirmation of deadlocked Obama candidates through the “nuclear option” in 2013, McConnell did the same to prevail over Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court four years later.
Many legislators are finding that social media and cable news are a better avenue for influence than committee assignments.
A similar dynamic is at play here. What first happened to Greene can now be applied to Omar, Swalwell and Schiff. Once that’s done, a future Democratic majority can deny committee membership to Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, a conservative firebrand deeply loathed by liberals, and then the next Republican majority can do the same to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. , DN. Y., a progressive leader who equally annoys the right. Members can be attacked because they are too liberal, too conservative, or simply too unpopular with the majority party base.
Allowing parties to police their own ranks and letting voters punish them if they refuse to do so was the best system.
Another unintended consequence that McCarthy and future Democratic leaders will have to deal with is this: many lawmakers are finding that social media and cable news are a better avenue for influence than committee assignments. Greene is most influential now than when he lost his position on various committees. And while Schiff has been an important leader of the committee, Omar and Swalwell have become very well known for reasons that have more to do with viral moments and tv hits. This could further incentivize celebrity lawmaking at the expense of serious legislative work.
Unlike the Senate, the House is a majority rule chamber in most things. That may be truer now more than ever.