Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will lead the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of the most influential roles in Washington, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell named him to the post on Monday on an interim basis.
Rubio will lead the committee, which often conducts classified work and led a high-profile investigation into Russian influence of the 2016 election, after North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr announced his resignation Thursday from the chairmanship while the FBI investigates his stock transactions.
“The senior senator for Florida is a talented and experienced Senate leader with expertise in foreign affairs and national security matters,” McConnell said in a statement. “Senator Rubio was the natural choice for this temporary assignment on the basis of accumulated committee service. His proven leadership on pertinent issues only made the decision easier.”
Burr’s exit was Rubio’s gain.
Burr’s cellphone was seized by FBI agents last week as part of an ongoing insider trading investigation. Burr dumped millions in stocks after receiving classified coronavirus briefings — before the market tanked in March.
Rubio was the third highest-ranking Republican on the committee after Burr and Idaho Sen. Jim Risch. But Risch already leads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Intelligence Committee has special rules that give McConnell the power to name the committee chair over traditional Senate seniority rules.
In a statement, Rubio said he plans to continue the committee’s serious work on intelligence matters around the world.
“I am grateful to Leader McConnell for his confidence in me to lead the Senate Intelligence Committee during Senator Burr’s absence from the chairmanship,” Rubio said. “The committee has long been one that conducts its work seriously, and I look forward to continuing that tradition.”
McConnell praised Rubio’s work and long tenure on the Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees as part of his basis for the selection.
“Senator Rubio has spent a decade as a leading member on the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees,” McConnell said. “His care for our nation’s security, advocacy for our values and interests, and vigilance toward threats have earned a national reputation. 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.”
The Intelligence Committee, previously led by Burr and Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, largely avoided strict partisanship during its investigation into Russian election influence and possible ties with President Donald Trump’s campaign. Burr in particular drew criticism from Trump allies after the committee subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. in 2019.
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.
It’s not clear how long Rubio will lead the committee. Burr 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.
©2020 McClatchy Washington Bureau
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