WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee by a unanimous voice vote on Tuesday backed veteran diplomat William Burns to become President Joe Biden’s Central Intelligence Agency director, Senator Mark Warner, the Democratic committee chair, said.
“The overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in Ambassador Burns’ favor is a testament to the nominee’s unquestioned qualifications for the role, long experience in matters of national security, and laudable commitment to public service,” Warner said in a statement.
Warner said he hoped the full Senate “will move to confirm Ambassador Burns without any unnecessary delay.”
At a confirmation hearing last month, Burns, a former ambassador to Russia and former deputy secretary of state, said he saw competition with China – and countering its “adversarial, predatory” leadership – as a key to U.S. national security.
Under questioning, Burns said if he were a U.S. college or university president, he would recommend shutting down Confucius Institutes – Beijing-funded campus cultural centers that many members of Congress see as propaganda tools.
“After meeting with Ambassador Burns, I believe he understands the nature of the Chinese threat and the others facing our nation,” the committee’s top Republican, Senator Marco Rubio, said in a statement.
At his hearing, Burns told the panel that other “familiar” persistent threats include those presented by Russia, North Korea and Iran. He also cited climate change, global health issues and cyber threats as serious risks.
Among the Russia-related issues Burns and other intelligence chiefs are expected to deal with early in the Biden administration is an investigation into recent hacking attacks of U.S. government and private and local government data networks.
A U.S. official said Biden’s director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, confirmed by the Senate in January, will lead a broad review of intelligence issues facing U.S. agencies, including what role Russia’s leadership played in the SolarWinds hack of U.S. targets and in approving payment of alleged Russian bounties to Taliban fighters who kill American and allied forces in Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Leslie Adler)