WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate Judiciary Committee will move forward on a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments that the bill will not get time on the Senate floor.
The Senate Judiciary Committee pushed consideration of the bill off another week, as expected, on Thursday, as is commonplace for all pieces of legislation and nominees that appear on the committee agenda for the first time. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the committee, said McConnell’s statements will not change his plans to bring the bill up again next week.
“Obviously the views of the majority leader are important to consider, but they do not govern what happens here in the Judiciary Committee,” Grassley said at a committee meeting on Thursday. “If consideration on the floor was a standard for approving a bill in committee or not, we wouldn’t be probably moving any bills out of this committee.”
McConnell shut down the bipartisan bill in an interview on Fox News on Tuesday, saying it would not receive any time on the Senate floor.
“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor,” McConnell said in the interview. “That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate.”
The bill makes it clear a special counsel can only be fired for good cause and gives a deposed counsel 10 days to seek judicial review of his or her firing. The new bill is a merger of two bipartisan bills introduced last August, and its sponsors hope the current version is clear of the constitutional questions legal experts raised about the original legislation at a hearing last year.
The committee will likely vote on the bill next Thursday, when senators will have the chance to debate and offer changes to the legislation. Grassley said he plans by the end of the day to circulate among committee members his much-discussed amendment that would require the special counsel’s office to report more regularly to Congress.
Grassley said his amendment is simply meant as an add-on to the legislation protecting Mueller, but Democrats have expressed concerns that the change could hamstring an ongoing investigation.
“As I stated previously, I’m concerned about requiring law enforcement officials to report prosecutorial decisions during open criminal investigations,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Thursday. “In the name of transparency, we should not create new reporting requirements that could bring about obstruction or political pressure.”
Speaking to reporters after Thursday’s hearing, Grassley would not commit to supporting the bill without seeing what changes lawmakers approve next week, but said it is targeted just as much at the future as it is towards Mueller.
“I don’t think Mueller’s a reason for passing this bill,” Grassley said.