Rubio seen as possible successor to Burr as Intelligence chairman

Greg Nash

Senate Republicans see Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as a likely successor to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, something that would be a major promotion for a lawmaker who contemplated leaving Congress only a few years ago.

The decision ultimately belongs to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) but he is expected to hew closely to the tradition of seniority, which put would Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) as first in line to become chairman and Rubio in second.

But GOP senators expect Risch to stick with his chairmanship of the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is designated a “Super A” committee under Senate Republican conference rules.

GOP rules state a senator serving as a chairman of any “A” committee may not also serve as the chairman of another committee, a limit that was adopted in 1995.

Risch on Thursday declined to comment about whether he would give up Foreign Relations to chair the Intelligence Committee but colleagues doubt it.

“He’s, as you know, chairman of Foreign Relations. You’ll have to ask him but I assume he’ll want to keep that position,” said Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.).

Rubio, who’s chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, which is designated a “B” committee, on Thursday indicated he would be happy to become the next chairman of Intelligence or take over the Foreign Relations gavel if Risch switches panels.

“I’ll do whatever they ask but it’s not up to me. It’s a select committee. The majority leader makes the decision,” Rubio told reporters.

Rubio indicated he would be happy to chair either panel.

“They’re both great committees, they’re the two ones I spent the most amount of time in until the last couple months,” he added, referring to the amount of time he spent crafting the popular small-business lending program that was passed as part of the CARES Act in March.

Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the Democratic vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said Burr’s resignation as chairman wouldn’t impact the committee’s work in completing its investigation of Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.

“We have virtually completed our last volume. The chairman is temporarily stepping down in hope this will be resolved. My hope and prayer is that the committee still continues to operate in a uniquely bipartisan way,” he said. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of the work is already done in the last volume.”

The panel last month released its fourth and penultimate volume of findings in its Russia investigation. It found the intelligence community assessment presented a “coherent and well-constructed intelligence basis for the case of unprecedented Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

The previous three volumes addressed U.S. election security, Russia’s use of social media and the Obama administration’s response to Russian interference in the election. 

Burr’s resignation will be effective at the end of Friday and whoever takes his gavel will likely serve as chairman or vice chairman — if Republicans lose their majority — of Intelligence in the next Congress.

Tags Jim Risch John Thune Marco Rubio Mark Warner Mitch McConnell Richard Burr Russia Senate Intelligence Committee
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