The retirement announcement of Intelligence Chairman Mike J. Rogers Friday morning leaves a big hole for the House — and the Sunday talk show circuit — to fill.
Rogers, who will become a radio talk show host , had become in some ways the face of the intelligence community on television, racking up more Sunday show appearances than any other member of Congress each of the last two years . The telegenic former FBI agent repeatedly defended the National Security Agency against attacks following the avalanche of leaks by Edward Snowden, often taking a harder line than the White House.
Rogers had been a hawk against leaks — at one point suggesting the death penalty should be considered for Chelsea Manning for leaking documents to Wikileaks. Inside the dome Rogers led a narrowly successful fight against his fellow Michigan Republican, Justin Amash, to end the NSA's blanket collection of telephone records . Here's a clip from last year's floor debate:
He referenced 9/11 and said that, after the 2001 terrorist attack, Americans asked “what if” there were a way we could have prevented the attack. “What if we had caught it?” Rogers asked. “The good news it’s not theoretical. Fifty-four times this program stopped and thwarted terrorist attacks here and in Europe, saving real lives. This isn’t a game. This is real.” Rogers said the amendment would have returned the nation to where it was on “Sept. 10.” At one point, Rogers seemed to take a personal dig at Amash, who has enjoyed a flood of social media support during his NSA battle. Rogers asked his House colleagues, “Are we so small that we can only look at our Facebook likes in this chamber?”Rogers has now outlined new bipartisan legislation that would end the NSA's massive collection of telephone metadata in concert with President Barack Obama's announcement that he wants to instead require the telephone companies to turn over the information when asked.
The particulars are sure to set up another battle with Amash and others on the floor.
Rogers' departure also opens up the post, and there will be jockeying for the job starting now. It'll be the speaker's call who will replace him next year. If that's still John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, it'll surely be another national security hawk. Boehner has strongly backed the intelligence agencies, although he supported a plan to end the government bulk collection of telephone metadata. Rogers had flirted with runs for leadership in previous years, and has been touted as a possible pick for any number of possible administration posts, including FBI director. But he's made his mark on the committee. With Rogers holding the gavel and partnering with Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., the committee has repeatedly pushed through bipartisan intelligence authorization bills.
Rogers' departure also adds to the seniority drain for the powerful Michigan delegation, with fellow Republican Dave Camp term-limited at Ways and Means, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin retiring and giving up the Senate Armed Services gavel and dean of the House John Dingell retiring.
There will, meanwhile, still be a Mike Rogers in Congress. That would be Mike D. Rogers, R-Ala.