U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, who has defended government surveillance programs as key to fighting terrorism, won’t seek re-election in November, setting off a competition to replace him on the panel.
Republican Representatives Peter King of New York and Devin Nunes of California said they will contend for the chairmanship, which is decided by the Speaker of the House.
“I would certainly appreciate being considered,” King said in a phone interview today. Nunes said in a text message his plan is to vie for the post.
Rogers, 50, a Michigan Republican who has served in Congress since 2001 and as head of the panel since 2011, announced his decision today on Detroit radio station WJR-AM.
Rogers will host a nationally syndicated radio show on Cumulus Media Inc. (CMLS:US) starting in January 2015, Lew Dickey, chief executive officer of the company, said in a statement. Rogers filed required paperwork on Jan. 9 notifying the House Ethics Committee he had started negotiating with the company for a job.
Under Rogers, the committee led House investigations into National Security Agency surveillance programs exposed last year by former government contractor Edward Snowden. Revelations about U.S. spying sparked a global debate about the trade-offs between privacy and security and led President Barack Obama and lawmakers to consider changes to NSA practices.
House Speaker John Boehner appointed all the panel’s Republican members, and they tend to be close to him. Nunes whipped votes for Boehner’s race for majority leader in 2006.
Nunes has also been a prolific fundraiser for the party, having given $250,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee in this election cycle so far, and nearly $1.2 million in the previous two cycles combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based campaign-finance research group.
King has given $45,000 so far this cycle and $802,000 over the previous two cycles, according to the center.
Rogers was a “great face out there for national security for our party,” Nunes said. “One of the few defense hawks in an era when it’s not popular to be a defense hawk.”
Although Republican Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas is next in line with seniority, he said in a statement “my focus for the future is strictly on the House Armed Services Committee, where I hope to follow Buck McKeon as chairman.”
Other possible contenders for the position include Republican Representatives Mike Conaway of Texas, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Jeff Miller of Florida and Thomas Rooney of Florida.
Joined by the committee’s top Democrat, Representative C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland, Rogers this week unveiled proposed legislation that would end the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone records. The measure would let the government go to AT&T Inc. (T:US) and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ:US) to obtain the data, such as numbers dialed and call durations, without the content.
While calling for changes to the NSA’s handling of phone records, Rogers said it would be “foolish and irresponsible” to disrupt other NSA programs exposed by Snowden. Those include one known as Prism, under which the U.S. compels Internet companies to hand over e-mails and other Internet data related to suspected foreign terrorists -- even if the data include communications of Americans.
Snowden faces U.S. espionage charges and is living in Russia under temporary asylum. In a January interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rogers called the 30-year-old “a thief” who had possible Russian assistance and has “incredibly harmed” the U.S. military.
Rogers had $1.85 million in his campaign account at the end of 2013 after raising $948,000 during the year, Federal Election Commission data show. His district includes Lansing, Rochester Hills and East Lansing, and it voted for Republican Mitt Romney over Obama 51 percent to 48 percent in the 2012 presidential election.
Earlier in his career on Capitol Hill, Rogers was instrumental in developing the anti-terrorism Patriot Act passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Before his election to Congress, Rogers served in the U.S. Army and spent six years as an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Rogers also has made cybersecurity a signature issue, with calls for shielding the nation’s computer networks and critical infrastructure from hacker attacks. He has accused China of widespread digital spying aimed at stealing intellectual property from U.S. companies.
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