Wednesday January 25, 2023
By: Mychael Schnell
Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana and Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Anna Moneymaker and Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) said she will not support Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (Calif.) effort to deny Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, making matters more difficult for the GOP leader as he looks to follow through on his pledge to not seat the congresswoman on the panel.
Spartz also said she opposes McCarthy’s vow to block Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) from the House Intelligence Committee.
But while McCarthy has the power to unilaterally block Schiff and Swalwell from the Intelligence Committee, unseating Omar would take a vote of the full House, where Republicans hold only a narrow majority.
Spartz pointed to the Democratic-led moves in 2021 to strip Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) of their panel assignments — which she voted against — as a reason for her resistance.
“Two wrongs do not make a right,” Spartz wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] took unprecedented actions last Congress to remove Reps. Greene and Gosar from their committees without proper due process. Speaker McCarthy is taking unprecedented actions this Congress to deny some committee assignments to the Minority without proper due process again.”
“As I spoke against it on the House floor two years ago, I will not support this charade again,” she added. “Speaker McCarthy needs to stop ‘bread and circuses’ in Congress and start governing for a change.”
McCarthy has pledged to keep Schiff and Swalwell off the Intelligence Committee and Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee after Democrats kicked Greene and Gosar off their panels.
The Intelligence panel is a select committee, which means the Speaker assigns members in consultation with the minority leader. That authority also gives him the ability to unilaterally deny members seats on the committee. Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, on the other hand, are chosen by each party and then ratified by the full House.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) has also expressed a coolness to denying Omar the committee seat after voting against booting Greene and Gosar from their panels in 2021.
“I’m going to treat everybody equally,” Mace told CNN. “I want to be consistent on it.”
That GOP opposition to not seating Omar on the Foreign Affairs Committee could present a math problem for McCarthy as he looks to make good on his vow in the narrowly split chamber.
Republicans can afford to lose only two more of their members, in addition to Spartz and Mace, and still deny Omar a seat on the committee. That number, however, could fall to three if Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) — who is recovering from injuries after falling 25 feet off a ladder — misses the vote. The Florida Republican wrote on Twitter on Monday that he will be “sidelined in Sarasota for several weeks.”
In 2021, 11 Republicans, seven of whom are still in Congress, voted with Democrats to boot Greene from her committees. Former Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) were the only two Republicans who voted to oust Gosar from panels.
It is unclear when the House will vote to ratify committee assignments. The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee is scheduled to meet this week and complete committee assignments. Omar is expected to be put on the Foreign Affairs Committee, according to several sources familiar with the Democrats’ plans.
After that, the slates will go to the floor for approval.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) officially tapped Schiff and Swalwell for the Intelligence Committee in a letter this weekend to McCarthy, setting the foundation for a showdown over panel assignments for the pair.
McCarthy’s frustrations with the trio stem from different areas.
Omar, a Somali refugee, has criticized the Israeli government and its supporters in the past, leading some to accuse her of antisemitism. The congresswoman was forced to apologize in 2019 after indicating that wealthy Jews were buying congressional support for Israel.
Republicans have accused Schiff of lying to the public while leading investigations into former President Trump, and McCarthy has pointed to Swalwell’s association with a suspected Chinese spy who helped fundraise for his 2014 reelection campaign. After the FBI told Swalwell about their concerns, he put an end to his ties with the Chinese national, who left for Beijing.
Both Schiff and Swalwell played prominent roles in Trump’s impeachments.
“I’m doing exactly what we’re supposed to do,” McCarthy told reporters earlier this month, doubling down on his vows to deny the lawmakers assignments.