Advertisement

Editorial: Removing Democrats from House committee is petty partisan payback from GOP

A woman with a dark head covering holds up a cellphone near microphones
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) during a news conference in 2021 addressing anti-Muslim comments made by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.).
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Share

After unfairly blocking the appointment of two California Democrats from the House intelligence committee on specious grounds last week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is now seeking to fulfill a long-standing promise to remove a prominent progressive Democrat from another important panel.

On Wednesday the Republican-controlled House approved a rule in preparation for a vote — perhaps as early as Thursday — barring Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from the House Foreign Affairs Committee because of comments she made in 2019 and 2021. It is still possible that a handful of Republican members will realize that a vote to exclude Omar would be partisan payback that would prolong the poisonous relationship between the parties in the chamber. (Rep. Matt Gaetz, the often-odious far-right Republican congressman from Florida, said he was undecided and offered a surprising defense of Omar in a Monday interview on Newsmax.)

But the move against Omar seems likely, especially after at least one Republican member was apparently persuaded to support the resolution because of language saying that members barred from a committee could appeal.

Advertisement

The House GOP can’t decide how to handle a loony anti-Semitic extremist and a rock-ribbed conservative who dared to vote to impeach then-President Trump.

Feb. 3, 2021

As speaker, McCarthy was able to exclude Reps. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) and Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees the intelligence activities of an array of federal departments and agencies. The speaker claimed that under Democratic leadership the committee had “severely undermined its primary national security and oversight missions.”

More to the point, Swalwell and Schiff have been fierce critics of former President Trump, whom McCarthy profusely thanked for his help in securing the speakership on the 15th ballot. Under Schiff’s leadership, the intelligence committee developed the case for Trump’s first impeachment and Schiff was an impeachment manager. Schiff called his exclusion from the intelligence committee “petty, political payback for investigating Donald Trump.”

The blackballing of Schiff and Swalwell also looks like retaliation for decisions made two years ago by the Democratic-controlled House (with support from a few Republicans) to remove Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) from committees. The removals were in response to Greene’s inflammatory statements and Gosar’s sharing of a cartoon video that depicts him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and wielding swords against President Biden.

In its first act, the House has moved to make it harder to investigate corruption by its members. So much for a “government that is held accountable.”

Jan. 11, 2023

McCarthy insisted that his targeting Schiff and Swalwell “is not similar to what the Democrats did” and noted that Schiff and Swalwell could serve on other committees. It’s hard to take those protestations seriously.

Advertisement

McCarthy’s intention to bar Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee also looks like a tit-for-tat for the removal of Gosar and Greene. Omar, a Somali American and one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, was widely criticized — including by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) — for a 2019 tweet in which she suggested that support for Israel was “ all about the Benjamins,” referring to $100 bills. Omar apologized for that statement, which seemed to draw on antisemitic tropes.

When Democrats proposed removing Greene from her committees, we warned in an editorial that ousting her against the will of her party “could invite future majorities to do the same thing to minority lawmakers for less substantive reasons.”

But two partisan wrongs do not make this practice right. McCarthy, who toadies to Trump and refused to join the call for Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) to resign for the mountain of lies he told during the 2022 campaign, has no moral authority to dictate to Democrats who will represent them on important committees.

Advertisement