Sen. Marco Rubio will be the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, taking the place of Richard M. Burr, who stepped down at least temporarily amid an investigation of his stock transactions.
The Florida Republican was officially tapped for the post by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday, which became open last week after news broke that the FBI had seized Burr’s cell phone.
Officially a position appointed by the majority leader, Rubio is third in committee seniority on the Intelligence panel behind Burr and Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch of Idaho.
“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 said in a statement. “His proven leadership on pertinent issues only made the decision easier.”
Rubio was expected to slot into the top GOP spot on Intelligence in the next Congress, so his interim leadership was a logical fit.
“Senator Rubio 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.”
In addition to his foreign policy work, this Congress Rubio has been the chairman of the Small Business Committee, where he was a primary author of the small business Paycheck Protection Program that was set up as part of the government's coronavirus relief efforts. Seniority on Small Business is such that after Risch and Rubio, the next senator in line for the gavel would be Kentucky Republican Rand Paul.
“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 in a statement Monday. “The Committee has long been one that conducts its work seriously, and I look forward to continuing that tradition.”
Before yielding the committee gavel last week, Burr announced with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the panel's vice chairman, that the committee had submitted the final volume of its investigation into Russian election interference for a declassification review.
The first order of business for the Rubio-led panel will be a likely party-line vote Tuesday on President Donald Trump’s nomination of Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe to be director of national intelligence. McConnell confirmed Monday the Ratcliffe nomination vote was on the panel's Tuesday agenda.
“This role is essential for monitoring and countering evolving threats from Russia to China to terrorist groups, and for ensuring the Intelligence Community’s important work is not tainted by partisan bias or political weaponization,” McConnell said of the DNI post, in remarks on on the Senate floor.