WASHINGTON — The effort to pass legislation to protect Robert Mueller’s job as special counsel appeared to hit a dead end Tuesday as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow the bill to come to the floor for a full Senate vote.
“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News.
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Earlier in the day, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said again that legislation to protect Mueller's position was “unnecessary” because, based on “the kinds of conversations we have had," he believes that the president will not take steps to dismiss the special counsel. "It would be not in the president’s interest to do such a thing and I think he knows that,” he said at a news conference.
Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate that would protect Mueller from being removed as the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation. The Senate bill stems from two bipartisan bills that merged into one last week, when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the panel would soon weigh in on the measure. Reps. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., introduced a similar bill in the House.
One of the co-sponsors of the Senate bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Tuesday that McConnell's approach was "his decision to make.”
“I don’t believe Mr. Mueller is in jeopardy of being fired," Graham said. "I wanted to do some institutional protections for special counsels down in the future, but I respect Mitch and I’m going to vote in committee for the institutional protections and again, I don’t think Mueller is going to be fired.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday it was "a mistake not to pass legislation to protect the investigation."
"We ought to head off a constitutional crisis at the pass, rather than waiting until it’s too late," Schumer said in a statement. "I hope the Judiciary Committee moves forward with a bill, and that members of Senator McConnell’s caucus push him to reconsider.”
Last week, the president suggested that he had not ruled out firing Mueller, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that he "certainly believes he has the power" to do so.