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Rubio to Lead Senate Intelligence Committee

May 19, 2020 by Dan McCue
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been tapped to be the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, taking the place of Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who stepped down last week amid an investigation into his stock transactions.

Burr stepped aside after federal agents examining his recent stock sales showed up at his home with a warrant to search his cellphone. Friday was Burr’s last day in the position.

He has pledged to step aside as long as the investigation into his stock trades is active, and he doesn’t intend to seek reelection in 2022.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced his decision to choose Rubio on Monday, saying, in a lengthy statement, that “the senior senator for Florida is a talented and experienced Senate leader with expertise in foreign affairs and national security matters.

“Senator Rubio was the natural choice for this temporary assignment on the basis of accumulated committee service,” McConnell added. “His proven leadership on pertinent issues only made the decision easier.”

The majority leader noted that Rubio, who ran for president in 2016, has spent a decade as a leading member on the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees.

“His care for our nation’s security, advocacy for our values and interests, and vigilance toward threats have earned a national reputation,” McConnell said. “On subjects ranging from China and Russia to Iran and North Korea to tyranny and unrest in our own hemisphere, Senator Rubio has been on the case for years.”

Rubio is third in committee seniority on the committee, after Burr and Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and has been widely touted for the top Republican post on the committee in the next Congress.

In a statement of his own, Rubio said he was grateful for McConnell’s confidence in his abilities.

“The committee has long been one that conducts its work seriously, and I look forward to continuing that tradition,” he said.

Rubio also leads the Senate Small Business Committee, which is typically a lower-profile role but gained greater importance as the body responsible for the $650 billion Paycheck Protection Program. The program, designed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, is supposed to help small businesses keep their workers on the payroll while the government forces many people to stay home.

Rubio’s first order of business in his new role will be to oversee what is expected to be a party-line vote Tuesday on President Donald Trump’s nomination of Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe to be director of national intelligence.

Along with House and Senate leaders and the top Democrat and Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rubio will now have access to some of the highest-level secrets in Congress as part of a small “Gang of Eight” that receives the most sensitive information.

Rubio also has a history of bipartisanship, having worked Democrats on the panel on its investigation into Russian election interference and other matters.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, said in a statement Monday that Rubio “has been a great partner on intelligence and national security issues” and he looks forward to working with him.

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