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House election results put McCarthy on track for speaker and Democrats on track for retaliation

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, likely the chamber’s next speaker, is sticking to his promise to strip three liberal Democrats of their committee duties when the new Congress takes place next year.

That doesn’t sit well with Democrats as they’re about to join the minority in the House of Representatives for the first time in four years. One of the legislators McCarthy singled out said it was part of a broader Republican campaign of “fear, xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism,” while another said the GOP leader was appealing to the “lowest common denominator” and “as that lowest common denominator, people on the committee want to remove, then that’s what they will do.

Democrats have employed similar tactics, only to see the GOP respond in kind. McCarthy takes a page from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s playbook, R-Ky.

But Democrats opened the door to the majority party dictating committee membership of minority lawmakers when they voted last year to remove a controversial Republican lawmaker from its committees. By breaking tradition and interfering with committee assignments across the aisle, they should know they caused years of partisan tit-for-tat.

If McCarthy perseveres, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota will be kicked off the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both from California, are barred from serving on the House Intelligence Committee. All three are major Trump critics and liberal lightning rods, with Schiff playing a major role in the impeachment proceedings of former President Donald Trump as chairman of the intelligence committee.

The moves are in apparent retaliation for the Democrat-controlled House overturning a vote unprecedented in modern history Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greenes commission assignments. The vote came after Georgia’s Republican came under fire for a period all kinds of incendiary remarksand the GOP conference itself has taken no action.

“The Democrats have created something new where they pick and choose who can sit on the committee,” said McCarthy, R-Calif., in a interview with conservative outlet Breitbart earlier this year. “Never in history [of Congress] did you let the majority tell the minority who could be on the committee.

McCarthy repeated his vow to keep Omar from foreign affairs in a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition over the weekend. “Last year I promised that when I became a speaker I would be Rep. Ilhan would remove Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee based on her repeated anti-Semitic and anti-American remarks,” McCarthy then tweeted. “I keep that promise.”

Omar has been reprimanded, including by members of her own partyfor language use some saw as perpetuate negative stereotypes of Jews in harsh remarks about Israel, for which they apologized. She recently said that McCarthy is unfairly attacking her and that Republicans have “openly tolerated anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and racism in their own party.”

Historically, House Committee assignments are largely determined by the two parties and their steering committees. Simply put, the majority party elects its committee members and the minority party does the same. Under that arrangement, parties were responsible for overseeing their own — such as when Republicans voted to deny the then Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, committee assignments after making widely condemned remarks about white supremacy and white nationalism

“We will not put Steve King on any committee during the 116th Congress. It was a unanimous decision,” McCarthy, already the top GOP leader in the House at the time, told reporters. He added, “I think we’ve said very loud and clear that we don’t tolerate this kind of language in the Republican Party.”

Democrats hoped the same would hold true when it came to Greene’s language on QAnon, conspiracy theories — including some widely viewed as anti-Semitic — and political violence. Republicans considered punishing her by taking on her commission assignmentsbut green apologized for some of her worst statements, and her colleagues admitted. She later visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and apologized for comparing House Covid mask-wearing rules to the laws of Nazi Germany.

“Previous comments by and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene about school shootings, political violence and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values ​​or beliefs of the House Republican Conference,” McCarthy said at the time. “I unequivocally condemn those comments. I have condemned them in the past. I continue to condemn them today.”

But Republicans made no changes to Greene’s committee slots. The full House then intervened. Democrats, as the majority party, had the votes to prevail, and Greene was kicked from her committees.

Now the Democrats don’t have the majority. In a period of political polarization, it was always predictable that this precedent would be used to extend beyond removing members they perceived as particularly extreme, and extend to lawmakers sending the other party’s fundraising emails. Especially since Democrats have used similar tactics to see the GOP react in the same way.

McCarthy takes a page from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s playbook, R-Ky. After the Democrats began filibustering Republican federal judicial nominees under President George W. Bush, McConnell responded by filibustering President Barack Obama’s, escalating all the way to a near years of blockade of Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court.

When Senate Democrats eliminated the filibuster for lower courts to facilitate confirmation of deadlocked Obama nominees through the “nuclear optionin 2013, McConnell did the same to ram through Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court four years later.

Many legislators are discovering that social media and cable news are a better way to exert influence than commission assignments.

A similar dynamic is at play here. What first happened to Greene can now be applied to Omar, Swalwell and Schiff. Once that’s done, a future Democratic majority can deny committee membership to Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, a conservative brand who hates liberals, and then the next Republican majority can do the same to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN. Y., a leading progressive who also annoys the right. Members can be targeted for being too liberal, too conservative, or simply too unpopular with the majority party.

Letting parties guard their own ranks and leaving it to voters to punish them if they refused was the better system.

Another unintended consequence that McCarthy and future Democratic leaders will have to grapple with is this: Many lawmakers are discovering that social media and cable news are a better way to exert influence than committee assignments. green now more influential than when she lost her spot on several committees. And while Schiff has been an important committee leader, Omar and Swalwell have become known for reasons more related to viral moments and television hits. This could further boost celebrity-making at the expense of serious legislative work.

Unlike the Senate, the House is a chamber where the majority rules in most matters. That may be true now more than ever.


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