Within hours of Mike Rogers’ surprise retirement announcement, the hawks started circling to seize his Intelligence Committee gavel.
GOP Reps. Peter T. King of New York and Devin Nunes of California have expressed interest in the post. Sources say Reps. Jeff Miller of Florida and Mike Pompeo of Kansas are eyeing the gavel as well.
All those candidates would carry on Rogers’ hawkish stance as chairman of the committee, and all are fairly close to Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, relationships that could be a major determining factor if Boehner continues his reign into the 114th Congress, as he has said he will.
Unlike most of the other House panels, the speaker singlehandedly appoints all members of the Intelligence Committee, including its chairman. Not surprisingly, Boehner has stacked the committee with allies, leaving no clear front-runner for the job.
King told CQ Roll Call in an interview that he would be a natural choice because has already served as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and he knows firsthand the effects of terrorism as a New Yorker who represents those affected by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“I would certainly appreciate being considered. It would be an honor,” King said.
The committee is playing a key role as the American public clamors for restrictions on the National Security Agency's domestic intelligence gathering. Boehner has been supportive of the agency and is unlikely to appoint someone with differing views to head the committee.
King is perhaps the only member who rivals Rogers in public defense of the intelligence community and the military. In fact, he is so far the only person who has announced a run for the GOP presidential nomination — mainly, he said, so he can rebut the isolationist and libertarian wing of the Republican party.
Nunes has also been a vocal critic of those who wish to curb the NSA’s scope, and in addition to addressing the threat of al-Qaida and terrorism, he said he would try bring more of a focus on cybersecurity threats posed by foreign governments.
“The attack on NSA has just been sad to watch,” he told CQ Roll Call in an interview. “We’ve got other foreign governments spying on everyone.”
Nunes said he has long planned to run for the committee chairmanship after Rogers stepped aside but hadn't expected his chance to come so soon, given that Rogers would not be term limited until the end of the 114th Congress.
Nunes pointed to his four years on the committee and international travel not just for the Intelligence Committee but also as chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade as qualifications for the intel gavel.
Miller, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, is also seeking the post, and sources said he could be coaxed into relinquishing his current gavel for the new one if asked, even though he still has two more years before reaching his term limit.
“Congressman Miller is honored to serve on the Intelligence Committee. He takes the committee assignment very seriously,” said his spokesman, Dan McFaul. “He believes the world continues to be a very dangerous place, and if the Speaker places confidence in Congressman Miller to oversee the Intelligence Committee he would give it 110 percent.”
Pompeo, too, has been an outspoken advocate for the intelligence community, but since he joined the committee this Congress, he is its least senior member.
“It’s far too early in the process to speculate on who might be the next chairman, especially given that this is a decision only the speaker can make,” said his spokesman J.P. Freire.
King, Miller and Nunes have all served on the committee since Republicans took power in the 112th Congress. That said, seniority has little to do with securing the job. Rogers himself leapfrogged several members when he was selected .
Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas is the most senior member of the committee and was a close candidate for the chairmanship before it was handed to Rogers. But Thornberry said in a statement that he has his eye elsewhere this time around.
“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 [Howard] "Buck" McKeon as Chairman,” he said. (McKeon is retiring .)
Rep. K. Michael Conaway of Texas has also served on the Intelligence Committee since the 112th Congress. It is clear Boehner has some faith in Conaway because the speaker appointed him to chair the Ethics Committee, the only other panel that is completely speaker-appointed. But in a statement, Conaway declined to say whether he is interested in the Intelligence gavel.
Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo of New Jersey also declined to comment on his intentions. Also serving on the panel are Reps. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, Tom Rooney of Florida, Joe Heck of Nevada and retiring Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.