Three Republican lawmakers are emerging as leading candidates to replace Rep. Mike Rogers as chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee, after Rogers announced Friday that he would not be seeking re-election to Congress.
While Rogers has said he will continue to serve out his term until the current session of Congress ends, the race to become his successor has already begun.
In interviews with GOP House members and staffers, the top three Republicans emerging to succeed the Michigan lawmaker from his own committee are Rep. Jeff Miller from Florida, Rep. Pete King from New York, and Rep. Devin Nunes from California. House GOP sources say Rep. Mike Pompeo is also seeking the job, but he’s only served on the House Permanent Select Committee for a little over a year so the odds aren’t in his favor.
Unlike most standing committees in Congress where the party’s caucus vote for the next chairman, the Speaker of the House alone gets to appoint the next chief. Luckily for the top three contenders, they have good relations with current House Speaker John Boehner.
The gig is nice work if you can get it. The chairman of the intelligence committee is one of a handful of lawmakers briefed on the most classified assessments and programs from the military, CIA and other intelligence agencies. The chairman also has considerable authority to declassify those secrets and is often courted by the Sunday talk shows as a guest to comment on breaking international news.
Of the three candidates, Miller has the most seniority on the House intelligence committee. He has served on the committee since 2009. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Texas, is the only member on the committee with more seniority than Miller, but Thornberry will likely be the next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and therefore is not eligible to also chair the Intelligence Committee.
Miller’s chief of staff, Dan McFaul, told The Daily Beast Friday that his boss “takes that committee assignment very seriously. We believe the world continues to be a very dangerous place, if the speaker places his confidence in Congressman Miller to oversee the Intelligence Committee, he would give 110 percent.”
As the top man on the House Veteran Affairs Committee, Miller already has experience as a committee chairman. But while Miller supported Boehner’s bid to become House speaker, he does not have a particularly close relationship with him.
On the other hand, Nunes, who has the least seniority of the three top contenders, is close to Boehner. In 2006, Nunes managed Boehner’s successful campaign for House majority leader. He’s also one of the speaker’s closest friends in Congress.
“This is something I have had a long interest in because of the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was elected right after 9-11,” Nunes told The Daily Beast. “I have learned a lot under Chairman Rogers, and when he left the chairmanship I had planned on running. I just did not know it was going to be so soon.”
Nunes, in some ways, also represents an astute political choice for Boehner who has had to face rebellions from Tea Party Republicans over extending the debt limit. Nunes has supported his party’s leaders on the debt limit and the budget deal, but he has also been the most vocal member of the House Intelligence Committee, calling for more hearings into the 9/11 anniversary terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, an issue that remains an enduring concern for many Tea Party Republicans.
Rep. Pete King has also been highly critical of the Obama administration on Benghazi. Despite his membership in the House Intelligence Committee, King supported the creation of a special Congressional committee to investigate the terrorist attack and the administration’s response to it.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, King said he would continue to investigate Benghazi if he was chairman “until we get every answer to our questions.”
One argument in favor of King is that as a former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, he has considerable national security experience. In fact, he still serves on that panel to this day. “It’s a great honor to be considered,” King told The Daily Beast. “The only reason I am not more up front about this is because this is the decision for the speaker.”
At the same time, King has also announced that he is running for the presidency in 2016. When asked if he would give up his run for the White House if he became chairman of the Intelligence Committee, King said, “Let’s take one thing at a time.”