Conservatives blame McCarthy for Twitter getting before favorable committee

Conservatives blame McCarthy for Twitter getting before favorable committee
© Greg Nash

House conservatives are blaming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants History in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week EU official in Canada says he feels 'at home' there because no one was shouting 'send him back' MORE (R-Calif.) for Twitter’s decision to have its founder publicly testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee instead of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where a number of conservative members sit.

The far-right Freedom Caucus and its allies argued that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was likely to get a more favorable reception from the Energy and Commerce panel in comparison to Oversight, which counts Freedom Caucus leaders Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsLawmakers request documents on DC councilman ethics investigation House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (R-N.C.) and Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanDOJ, Commerce slam House Dems contempt vote as 'political stunt' White House blasts 'shameful and cynical' Barr, Ross contempt vote House votes to hold Trump Cabinet members Barr, Ross in contempt MORE (R-Ohio) among its members.

“The majority leader talks tough on tech then sends [Dorsey] to the friendly confines of the industry-friendly Energy & Commerce Committee,” Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzMatt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' Matt Gaetz hints prosecutor won't press charges against threatening caller for political reasons Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid MORE (R-Fla.), who says he has been unfairly censored on social media, told The Hill.  

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Gaetz, who is not a Freedom Caucus member, said that when he complained to McCarthy, the leader told him he should trust the members of the other panel.

“I had a discussion with him about this. He told me to trust my colleagues more,” Gaetz said.

In a brief interview in the Capitol, McCarthy downplayed the spat and said it was clear that Energy and Commerce had jurisdiction over communications and technology issues, especially when it pertains to broad-based consumer issues. The Energy and Commerce Committee also has its own oversight and investigative subcommittee.

“It’s the same thing we do with any bill. People go to the jurisdiction. E&C has the jurisdiction over these things, so that’s why it went to E&C,” McCarthy said Wednesday, a position that was echoed by Oversight Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyCummings announces expansion of Oversight panel's White House personal email probe, citing stonewalling Pelosi says it's up to GOP to address sexual assault allegation against Trump Our sad reality: Donald Trump is no Eisenhower MORE (R-S.C.).

Asked if he personally made the decision for Dorsey to appear before Energy and Commerce, McCarthy replied, “No, it’s not my call.”

Both panels had aggressively fought to get Dorsey to appear before their committees so they could grill him on allegations of conservative bias on social media. Both invited Dorsey to testify.

Freedom Caucus members say McCarthy played a pivotal role in convincing Twitter and Dorsey to choose the Energy and Commerce Committee over the Oversight committee.

McCarthy sent a letter to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOvernight Energy: EPA expands use of pesticide it considers 'highly toxic' to bees | House passes defense bill with measure targeting 'forever chemicals' | Five things to watch as Barry barrels through the Gulf House passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' Overnight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker MORE (R-Ore.) in August calling for him to invite Dorsey to a hearing.

“I would like to request a hearing with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey so that the American people can learn more about the filtering and censorship practices on his platform," McCarthy wrote.

Conservatives say McCarthy could and should have done more to get Dorsey to go before Oversight.

A leadership aide said it’s not up to leadership to dictate to private or public companies which committees — or how many — they should appear before.

Some conservatives believe maneuvering for future leadership fights played a role.

Jordan  — who says he has been directly targeted by Twitter’s anti-conservative bias — also is challenging McCarthy for the Speaker’s gavel. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump quietly rolled back programs to detect, combat weapons of mass destruction: report Ocasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller MORE (R-Wis.), who is backing McCarthy, plans to retire from Congress in January.

Denying the Oversight panel a chance to take a crack at Dorsey undercuts Jordan, his allies believe.

“It kind of seems like McCarthy doesn’t want to elevate Jordan,” said one conservative senior GOP aide.

But two other potential McCarthy rivals — Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseThe Memo: Fears of violence grow amid Trump race storm Democrats call for increased security after 'send her back' chants Democratic strategist on Trump tweets: 'He's feeding this fear and hate' MORE (R-La.) and GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersOvernight Energy: Fight over fuel standards intensifies | Democrats grill Trump officials over rule rollback | California official blasts EPA chief over broken talks | Former EPA official says Wheeler lied to Congress EPA head clashes with California over how car emissions negotiations broke down Lawmakers celebrate 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote MORE (R-Wash.) — sit on the Energy and Commerce Committee and will get a chance to question Dorsey on Wednesday afternoon, when he appears before the panel. So will conservatives like Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnHillicon Valley: Intel chief creates new election security position | Privacy groups want role in new tech task force | Republicans urge Trump not to delay Pentagon cloud contract Advocates urge senators to work with consumer groups on privacy law Hillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections MORE (R-Tenn.), who is running for Senate, and Reps. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonGOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Privacy legislation could provide common ground for the newly divided Congress Texas New Members 2019 MORE (R-Texas), Morgan GriffithHoward (Morgan) Morgan GriffithThe 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran Overnight Energy: Senate Dems introduce Green New Deal alternative | Six Republicans named to House climate panel | Wheeler confirmed to lead EPA Six Republicans named to House climate panel MORE (R-Va.) and Jeff DuncanJeffrey (Jeff) Darren DuncanHouse passes annual intelligence bill Conservatives ask Barr to lay out Trump's rationale for census question House conservatives want information on TSA policies for undocumented immigrants MORE (R-S.C.) — all three of whom are Freedom Caucus members.

McCarthy, once a darling of Silicon Valley, has been aggressively leading the GOP charge against tech companies, one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE’s new favorite punching bags. The majority leader, who is close to Trump, has tweeted over a dozen times last month to “stop the bias,” referring to what critics say is a pattern of censoring conservative voices on social media.

His letter to Walden came after Twitter denied in a blog post that it practiced “shadow-banning” — or hiding tweets and profiles of misbehaving Twitter users without removing them from the site — of users based on political leanings.

That controversy started after prominent conservatives aligned with Trump, including Jordan, Gaetz and Meadows failed to appear on Twitter’s auto-populated drop-down search box when users typed in their names.

That’s why Meadows and Jordan, who each chair an Oversight subcommittee, were itching to have Dorsey testify in front of their panel, where he would likely face a tougher grilling.

“There is a real frustration among those of us that were targeted by Twitter that there was not a more inclusive process to allow us to be a part of the questioning of Jack Dorsey,” Meadows told The Hill.

Some Oversight members asked to join Wednesday’s Energy and Commerce hearing, which would have required unanimous consent (UC) from the panel, but were rejected.

“I thought allowing us to be UCed in to participate in the hearing seemed like a very reasonable request that was ultimately denied by the committee,” Meadows said.

The Oversight Committee could subpoena Dorsey to force him to testify, but Jordan said that decision is up to Gowdy as chairman.

“All I know is, we were working to try to get them in front of Mark’s subcommittee and our subcommittee,” Jordan told reporters on Wednesday. “But Dorsey wouldn’t agree.”

Walden said the Energy and Commerce Committee is better equipped than the Oversight panel to handle the issue, because his committee has both oversight authority and the jurisdiction to take legislative steps, if needed.

“OGR is a great committee, but it has very limited legislative ability,” Walden told reporters on Wednesday. “So this is a bigger discussion about, get the facts, build the case, and see where we go legislatively.”

Walden declined to say whether he talked to GOP leadership or members of the Freedom Caucus about Twitter's decision to appear before Energy and Commerce.

“I’m not going to get into that,” he said.

On Wednesday morning, Dorsey and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on election interference. Dorsey then appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee later in the afternoon on censoring and filtering practices.

-Juliegrace Brufke contributed