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U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, steering Russia investigation, eyes intelligence chairmanship

U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, who currently leads the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russia election-meddling, told the Tribune he is interested in chairing that powerful committee in the future.

U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, speaks with farmers in San Angelo, Texas, on July 31, 2017.

SAN ANGELO — U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway currently has one of the strangest workloads in Washington: chairing the committee tasked with writing a massive farm bill while also leading the chamber's investigation into election-meddling by Russia.

But while surrounded by cowboys and farmers earlier this week during an industry listening tour, the Midland Republican said that those may not be the last high-profile assignments he leads in Congress, if he has any say.

Conaway is already currently leading the House Intelligence Committee's most high-profile work. Supposing the GOP holds onto power in the U.S. House in the coming years, would he want to serve as the chairman of that powerful committee someday?

"Sure," he told the Tribune.

This past spring, the House Intelligence Committee roiled with drama, thanks to erratic leadership from committee Chairman Devin Nunes of California. That committee's investigation into Russian interference was widely viewed as dysfunctional and ineffectual. 

Nunes eventually recused himself while retaining his spot as chairman, and Conaway took over the investigation. House Democrats and Republicans alike now gush daily about Conaway's handling of the investigation. Most of the investigation's work since has been behind closed doors, like last week when Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, answered committee questions.

But in the open hearings he leads, he takes a quiet role and there the partisan temperature in the room has been markedly reduced.

In San Angelo this week, Conaway explained how he balances that tricky role while also chairing the Agriculture committee, an assignment that is crucially important to his rural West Texas district. And in the coming months, he will shepherd the farm bill, which ties together food assistance to the poor and subsidies to farmers. 

"I've got as good as – or better than – any team that's ever been put in place," he said of the House Agriculture Committee staff. "I sound like Donald Trump, but it's true because everyone of my guys, my peeps, they're the best. They've got great depth."

Conaway also complimented his colleagues on the committee, particularly subcommittee chairs. 

"I've got three former chairmen on the committee," he said of colleagues who have previously passed farm bills and can help support the process. 

House Republicans have term limits on their committee chairmanships. Both Conaway and Nunes are set to wrap up their tenures chairing their respective committees in 2021, potentially positioning Conaway to easily move into the Intelligence leadership role, should his colleagues back that notion.

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Politics Mike Conaway U.S. House of Representatives