Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Thursday pledged to bring a bill to protect the special counsel up for a vote in committee despite Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) comment earlier in the week that he will not bring the bill up for a vote in the full Senate.
Grassley told the committee that McConnell’s views “do not govern what happens here in the Judiciary Committee.” He said that if a bill’s prospect in the full Senate always governed the committee’s actions, “we wouldn’t be probably moving any bills out of this committee.”
He also complained about media coverage of his plan to move forward with the bill.
“The press is always trying to put us between me and the President or me and the majority leader. I don’t care to be put in the middle of anything,” he said. “I just plan on doing the work that this committee ought to do.”
Though the committee was initially scheduled to consider the bill today, Grassley delayed the legislation’s markup until next week at the request of a few senators. The committee’s ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), had asked for the markup of the bill to be delayed until the committee can review a proposed amendment from Grassley, which would require the Justice Department to report to Congress ahead of major decisions regarding the special counsel. Feinstein has concerns about the amendment and said last week that she worried an amendment that the committee was unable to view could “undermine” the special counsel.
Grassley on Thursday rejected the “conspiracy theory” that he was trying to “junk the bill” with the amendment and said that he planned to share his amendment with the full committee later on Thursday.
One of the Republican sponsors of the bill, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), told the committee that since McConnell has not expressed interest in bringing the bill to the floor, it is up to the committee’s members to earn wider support for the legislation. He urged the committee to “dispense with the drama” and stress the bill’s “enduring value” rather than focus on the political ramifications. He said that that the bill should not be about President Donald Trump.
“I for one don’t think the President is going to fire the special counsel,” Tillis said. “I trust this President on this issue. What I don’t trust is future presidents who I don’t know yet.”
Most Republicans in the Senate have consistently seemed unconcerned that Trump could fire Mueller and believe a bill to protect the special counsel is unnecessary.