Via Breitbart, I’m warming up to the idea of the House majority booting select members of the minority from their committee assignments. Plainly there are people on both sides in the House who shouldn’t be exercising serious influence over policy. Bouncing Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from their assignments and then Ilhan Omar and Adam Schiff from theirs feels like a win/win for America.
Maybe this could be a new form of cooperation between the two sides. At the start of every term, Democrats and Republicans each get to “draft” five members from the other party to sideline for the next two years. American government could only benefit.
It won’t work that way, of course. Greene and Gosar will be back on their committees next year while a few Dems head for the showers. But is McCarthy prepared to ban those Democrats from all assignments or just assignments for certain committees? Watch closely.
Dems kicked Gosar off his committees for the meme he posted of him “killing” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a repurposed anime cartoon and kicked Greene off of hers for being a generally embarrassing conspiracy crank. Both were cashiered for general outrageousness, being beneath the dignity of Congress. McCarthy’s objections to the Democrats he’s targeting are more particular than that. He wants Swalwell off the Intel and Homeland Security committees on the theory that he’s been compromised by his relationship with a Chinese spy. And he wants Schiff off the Intel committee because he pushed the Steele dossier — and because the committee failed to anticipate Afghanistan’s collapse on Schiff’s watch.
Even Ilhan Omar isn’t at risk of being booted from Foreign Affairs for general outrageousness, as Greene was. She’s unfit because of her old comments about the influence of the pro-Israel lobby spending “Benjamins” in the U.S. to steer policy on the Middle East.
In each case, McCarthy is challenging the fitness of that Democrat on policy grounds to serve on that particular committee. Swalwell can’t be trusted to put America’s interests over China’s; Schiff can’t be trusted to suss out propaganda if it tells him what he wants to hear; Omar can’t be trusted to overcome her prejudices against Israel. None of them are being booted as a general rebuke for misbehavior. They each stand accused of being fundamentally unqualified for the particular role they’re in.
Which is a bold new frontier in stripping members of their assignments, I think. Instead of being broadly and personally “beyond the pale,” being “beyond the pale” with respect to your committee’s function will suffice. Under that standard, I see many more representatives being relegated to irrelevancy in our country’s future. No doubt Dems already have a list (Jordan, Gaetz, Gohmert, Banks, Boebert, and so on) of other GOPers to sideline down the road, once they’re back in power again, after McCarthy further escalates next year.
Swalwell is taking the news with his characteristic aplomb and good cheer:
McCarthy is targeting me for 1 reason: I’m effective. He wants to carry water (& sort Starbursts) for Trump’s Big Lie & not be called out. He’s projecting onto me b/c he’s incapable of facing down the Ku Klux Klan elements in his caucus. If he thinks he’s silencing me, he’s not. https://t.co/43OcNj3mWk
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) January 10, 2022
In fairness to him, Republicans normally aren’t sticklers about preventing people from serving in important roles just because they’re too shady to get a government security clearance.
The potential problem for McCarthy is that it sounds like he’s prepared to take only half-measures. He never says that Schiff, Swalwell, and Omar should be barred from serving on any committee, as Dems did to Greene. He says they shouldn’t continue with their current assignments. That won’t please anyone. On the one hand, GOP institutionalists will lobby him to de-escalate by not targeting any Democrats, fearing that this game of tit for tat will add to the toxicity in an already toxic House. Mike Turner, the new top Republican on the Intel committee, seems to want to rebuild comity on the panel after years of war between Schiff and Devin Nunes. Would he support an effort to oust Schiff next year?
Turner signed onto a 2019 letter calling for Schiff’s removal, but repeatedly declined to endorse an ouster of the California Democrat in an interview this week — a possible sign of a detente.
“Obviously, Adam Schiff is not going to change fundamentally who he is. And that certainly is going to be a complicating factor,” Turner told POLITICO. “But on national security, I have a strong record of being able to work across the aisle and to try to advance what’s important to our country. And I’m going to continue in that vein.”
Turner and others might want Schiff to stay on to signal a new age of cooperation on the Intel committee. But McCarthy’s master, Donald Trump, won’t go for that. He’ll want revenge. And even if McCarthy grants that revenge by barring Schiff from the Intel committee, allowing him to serve on other committees will get Trump and his fans wondering why Schiff isn’t receiving the same harsh treatment Greene got. Why not bar him from all committees? Why won’t McCarthy fight?
McCarthy’s going to try to throw MAGA fans a bone by booting the Dems from only *certain* committees and it’ll end up backfiring on him, further confirming the right’s suspicions that he’s not really One Of Us. And that’s a dangerous place politically for him to be since there are plenty of members of his caucus who are One Of Us, and who’d doubtless relish becoming Speaker.