GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips
Multiple House Democrats who are frequent top targets of the far right face the prospect of losing their committee assignments if Republicans win back the chamber next year.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has threatened to retaliate after Democrats stripped GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.) of committee seats this Congress, warning that some liberal lawmakers “will need the approval of a majority to keep those positions in the future.”
None of the Democrats singled out by McCarthy as examples of who could be removed from House committees have embraced conspiracy theories or promoted violence against their political opponents the way Greene and Gosar have.
But that’s not stopping Republicans from warning of a scorched-earth environment if they win back the House, as many poll watchers expect.
McCarthy has also pledged to restore Gosar’s and Greene’s committee assignments.
Democrats maintain that they’ve only adhered to a precedent of taking punitive action against lawmakers who promoted political violence in the absence of a formal rebuke from GOP leaders.
“Let me be clear: If a Democrat did the same thing, I would introduce the same resolution,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who led the original resolution to censure Gosar for posting an anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and swinging swords at President Biden.
Democrats defended last week’s vote to censure Gosar and take away his committee seats as necessary given the unprecedented level of violent threats that lawmakers still face months after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. But some Democrats acknowledged that the possibility of Republicans engaging in payback is real.
“They’ve made very clear that that is their intent,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Here are the House Democrats who could be at risk of losing their committee seats and why.
Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.)
Waters, the House Financial Services Committee chairwoman and senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, has long been a target of former President Trump and the far right for her no-holds-barred attacks on the GOP.
In 2018, Waters urged people to confront Trump administration officials in public spaces and “tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere” over policies that resulted in separating migrant families. And the year before that, Waters told a crowd that she would “go and take out Trump tonight.”
Republicans have already sought to censure Waters this year while still in the House minority.
McCarthy forced a procedural vote in April on a resolution to censure Waters for saying that “we’ve got to get more confrontational” about police brutality against African Americans at a protest in Minneapolis, where former police officer Derek Chauvin was on trial for the murder of George Floyd. The judge in the Chauvin trial criticized Waters for the remarks, warning they could give the defense “something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”
The House ultimately rejected the censure resolution against Waters along party lines.
Waters maintained that she wasn’t trying to encourage violence and wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that her GOP critics were targeting her “to divert attention from the fact that they aided and abetted a violent, domestic terrorist insurrection led by Donald Trump.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.)
Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress and a prominent member of the progressive “squad,” has faced bipartisan pushback for her criticisms of Israel.
And while Democrats have taken some action in the past over some of Omar’s comments that were considered controversial, Republicans have long called for going further and removing her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In 2019, Omar suggested that a pro-Israel lobby “says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” House Democrats subsequently passed a resolution broadly condemning antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry, although it didn’t directly name Omar.
And earlier this year, a group of 12 Jewish Democrats publicly called on Omar to “clarify” her questioning of Secretary of State Antony Blinken about ongoing International Criminal Court investigations regarding alleged crimes by the U.S. and the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as Hamas and Israel in the Gaza conflict during a committee hearing.
Omar said that she was “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems” and that she was only asking about “accountability for specific incidents” regarding those pending cases.
Democrats ultimately accepted Omar’s clarification and moved on. But Republicans introduced a resolution to censure Omar as well as progressive Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Ocasio-Cortez — the rest of the squad — for criticizing Israel over its actions in the long-running conflict with Palestine.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.)
McCarthy and other Republicans have been calling for Swalwell’s removal from the House Intelligence Committee since Axios reported in late 2020 that a suspected Chinese intelligence operative named Christine Fang cultivated ties with him.
Republicans forced a procedural vote on a resolution in March to remove Swalwell from the Intelligence panel, but it was rejected along party lines. That vote came weeks after Swalwell served as one of the House prosecutors in Trump’s impeachment trial following the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Fang reportedly took part in fundraising activity for Swalwell’s 2014 reelection campaign — although records indicate she didn’t make donations herself — and helped place an intern in his office.
Federal authorities alerted Swalwell to concerns about Fang around 2015, leading the California Democrat to cut ties with her. Swalwell has not been accused of any wrongdoing and said he provided information about Fang to the FBI.
During floor debate on the resolution to censure Gosar and remove him from committees, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), without evidence, accused Swalwell of having slept with Fang.
“Weird. If I had done anything wrong the FBI would have raided my house. They didn’t (and went as far to issue a statement saying I did nothing wrong),” Swalwell replied in a tweet.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)
Republicans have long been itching to retaliate against Schiff. The House Intelligence Committee chairman became one of the Democratic Party’s biggest stars after leading the first impeachment against Trump in 2019 over the former president’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden.
During floor debate on the resolution to censure Gosar and remove him from committees, McCarthy pointed to the arrest earlier this month of a primary source for the infamous 2016 dossier alleging Trump had improper ties to the Russian government.
“Think about everything that dossier put this country through for two years based on fabricated evidence,” McCarthy said. “And yet the Democratic chairman says, ‘I don’t regret it.’ Why? Rules for thee but not for me.”
Schiff defended his past calls to investigate the claims in the dossier and pointed to the confirmation by U.S. agencies that the Russian government was trying to boost Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
“The top line there of Russian help and Trump willingness to accept it and make use of it proved all too accurate,” Schiff said on “Meet the Press” earlier this month.
Schiff has since used McCarthy’s threat to prevent him from serving on committees as a fundraising appeal to his supporters.
“All because I investigated his boss — Donald J. Trump — and exposed Trump’s crimes against our nation,” Schiff’s reelection campaign wrote in a fundraising missive. “McCarthy is already planning how he’s going to rule the House like Trump ran our country: like a spiteful autocrat hellbent on smiting his enemies.”
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.