In a surprise move, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) announced this week that he would be stepping down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to the BBC, amid allegations that he illegally sold stocks using insider information he received as a congressman ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, as CBS News reported.
Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will need to appoint a replacement for Burr as the Intel Committee’s chair — and according to The Hill, some Republicans are suggesting that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is the perfect candidate for the job.
Rubio for chairman?
According to The Hill, McConnell “is expected to hew closely to the tradition of seniority, which put would Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) as first in line to become chairman and Rubio in second.”
However, The Hill also reported that “GOP senators expect Risch to stick with his chairmanship of the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” given that Senate rules would preclude him from holding both positions simultaneously.
This is due to the fact that both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee are designated as “A” committees, and since 1995, senators have been limited to only chairing one “A” committee at a time.
“[Risch is], as you know, chairman of Foreign Relations. You’ll have to ask him but I assume he’ll want to keep that position,” Republican Whip John Thune (R-SD) told The Hill.
“It’s not up to me”
In contrast, Rubio currently chairs the Senate Small Business Committee, which is designated as a “B” committee and is thus not subject to the same limitation. For his part, the Florida senator has said he’ll “do whatever they ask, but it’s not up to me.”
“That’s a committee that’s governed by the majority and Democratic leader, so they appoint the chair,” Rubio said, according to the Miami Herald. “It’s a select committee. The majority leader makes the decision.”
The Republican went on: “My personal preference? They’re both great committees, they’re the ones I spent the most amount of time in until the last couple months.”
Trump and Burr
For his part, President Donald Trump has spoken highly of Burr in the past, particularly with regard to his handling of the Senate Intel panel’s probe into alleged Trump–Russia collusion.
Highly respected Senator Richard Burr, head of Senate Intelligence, said, after interviewing over 200 witnesses and studying over 2 million pages of documents, “WE HAVE FOUND NO COLLUSION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA.” The Witch Hunt, so bad for our Country, must end!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2019
But a report from Politico indicates that Trump nor his allies are likely to come to Burr’s rescue in this case. “[Trump will] stay out of it,” an ex-adviser of the president’s told Politico. “Getting involved could hurt him politically.”
Indeed, if Burr was really involved in insider trading, he needs to be held accountable — as do those accused of similar crimes on the other side of the aisle.