Mike Rogers Is Headed to Radio. So Who Will Take His Gavel?

Rep. Mac Thornberry is next in line — but he doesn’t want the job, so King and Nunes are moving in.

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence member Rep. Peter King, R-NY, arrives for a closed briefing by administration officials for the House Armed Services Committee and Intelligence Committee on Syria on September 9, 2013 in the House Visitors Center of the Capitol in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Sara Sorcher
March 28, 2014, 10:33 a.m.

One of the loudest back­ers of the gov­ern­ment’s spy op­er­a­tions is tak­ing his voice from Con­gress to the ra­dio waves. And already am­bi­tious col­leagues are vy­ing to re­place him.

Mike Ro­gers’s sur­prise an­nounce­ment early Fri­day morn­ing that he was not seek­ing reelec­tion in Novem­ber — and in­stead start­ing a new ca­reer as a talk-ra­dio host — left con­gres­sion­al aides scram­bling to fig­ure out who might suc­ceed him at the helm of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. The un­ex­pec­ted va­cancy already has at­trac­ted the at­ten­tion of at least two oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans who may soon jockey for the top slot.

All eyes Fri­day were on Rep. Mac Thorn­berry, who is the second-most-seni­or Re­pub­lic­an on both the In­tel­li­gence pan­el and the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

But the Texas Re­pub­lic­an has, so far, denied be­ing in­terest in the job. “While chair­ing the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee is an im­port­ant job, my fo­cus for the fu­ture is strictly on the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, where I hope to fol­low Buck McK­eon as chair­man,” Thorn­berry said in a state­ment Fri­day.

With Thorn­berry step­ping aside, the line of suc­ces­sion is less clear. Rep. Jeff Miller of Flor­ida is next on the Re­pub­lic­an seni­or­ity list, but he already holds the gavel of the Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee.

With those two out of the pic­ture, it’s any­one’s game now. But Reps. Peter King of New York and Dev­in Nunes of Cali­for­nia have already jumped in.

“It would be an hon­or to be con­sidered,” King said in a phone in­ter­view. “This is up to the speak­er [John Boehner]…. But if some­body asks me, I’d be in­ter­ested.”

Nunes is be­ing even less equi­voc­al. “Rep. Nunes is in­ter­ested in the po­s­i­tion of chair­man of the in­tel com­mit­tee,” spokes­man Jack Langer said.

King was blind­sided by the sud­den news that Ro­gers was re­tir­ing. “None of us saw it com­ing,” he said, adding that he is un­sure who may turn out to be his com­pet­i­tion for the chair­man­ship. “None of us have had a chance to talk to each oth­er” about it just yet, he ad­ded.

Whichever law­maker takes over the In­tel­li­gence chair­man­ship is vir­tu­ally sure to have a big role in the de­bate over how to weigh Amer­ic­ans’ pri­vacy con­cerns with the need for na­tion­al se­cur­ity, spurred by Ed­ward Snowden’s dis­clos­ures about the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s bulk col­lec­tion of tele­phone and In­ter­net data.

But Ro­gers likely hopes to end much of that de­bate be­fore he steps down next Janu­ary.

A fierce de­fend­er of the NSA, Ro­gers, along with the pan­el’s top Demo­crat, Dutch Rup­pers­ber­ger, in­tro­duced a bill earli­er this week to al­low the NSA’s vast data­base of phone re­cords to stay in the hands of the phone com­pan­ies — and not the gov­ern­ment. The le­gis­la­tion would al­low the NSA to force those com­pan­ies to hand over par­tic­u­lar re­cords be­fore the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court could re­view those or­ders, a key de­par­ture from the pro­pos­al Pres­id­ent Obama is back­ing, which would re­quire the agents to ob­tain those or­ders first.

King, who formerly chaired the House Home­land Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tee, is an­oth­er strong sup­port­er of the NSA, ad­voc­at­ing for an “ag­gress­ive” in­tel­li­gence-col­lec­tion pro­gram. “I didn’t think any re­forms were ne­ces­sary, leg­ally or con­sti­tu­tion­ally,” King said, but the “polit­ic­al real­it­ies” mean he must sup­port re­forms in or­der to pre­serve the pro­gram.

The oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans on the com­mit­tee are Frank Lo­Bi­ondo of New Jer­sey, Lynn West­mo­re­land of Geor­gia, Michele Bach­mann of Min­nesota, Tom Rooney of Flor­ida, Joe Heck of Nevada, and Mike Pom­peo of Kan­sas.

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