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Schiff Named Top Democrat on Intelligence Panel

Schiff named ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that California Democrat Adam B. Schiff will be the next ranking member on the Intelligence Committee.  

“As a senior member of the Intelligence Committee, Congressman Schiff has been a vital voice on the most pressing national security challenges of our time, including counter terrorism efforts and challenges in the Middle East," Pelosi said in a statement. "He has proven himself to be a capable leader and a proponent of surveillance reforms." Pelosi said Schiff who has previously served on the Foreign Affairs Committee, the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Committee and the Intelligence panel — had "impeccable national security credentials."  

Schiff, who has been on the Intelligence panel since 2008, is widely seen as a more critical watchdog of the National Security Agency. The former ranking Democrat, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, was a staunch supporter of the NSA, which has its headquarters in his Maryland district.  

Pelosi noted in her statement announcing Schiff's new role that the Intelligence Committee was tasked with preserving "our national security while protecting the civil liberties and privacy of Americans."  

Whether that's a shot at Ruppersberger in any way isn't clear. Pelosi was more than effusive to Ruppersberger in her statement, thanking him for his time on the panel and calling him "a steadfast protector of our national security, a leader in cybersecurity, and a distinguished mind on technical programs critical to our intelligence infrastructure."  

She also called Ruppersberger a "great American patriot.”  

Ruppersberger said back in December that he expected to be term-limited, though he noted it was "basically Nancy's call."  

"I would hope they not only extend me, but our whole back row because intelligence is very sophisticated now," Ruppersberger said. "You really have to learn space. You have to learn cyber. So there's a lot of areas going on that weren't here years ago, and because of the worldwide threats of cyber threats, that type of thing."  

Ruppersberger noted, however, that if he didn't get a waiver to remain the No. 1 Democrat on Intelligence, he expected to return to the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which controls funding for the intelligence community and often has access to classified information provided to Intelligence Committee members.  

Ruppersberger had served 12 total years on the committee: eight as a rank-and-file member and the last four as the ranking member. Pelosi, who once served as a ranking member of the committee herself, had established a bit of a precedent with the Intelligence panel when she term-limited former ranking Democrat Jane Harman after the 2006 elections.  

"Nancy decided when Jane Harman left, she was where I was. She had eight years and then four years of leadership, and she decided not to re-up her so-to-speak, or give her a waiver to stay," Ruppersberger noted.  

Schiff becomes the No. 1 Democrat on the panel amid a change at the top on the Republican side. After Intelligence panel Chairman Mike Rogers of Michigan retired, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., became the chairman.  

Now the Intelligence panel will be led by two new Californians.  

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