Senate Committee Approves Bill Protecting Special Counsel, Dems Demand Vote

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Chuck Grassley voted Thursday to approve legislation that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by the President.

But, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had already informed his colleagues that The Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act will not get the courtesy of a vote.

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Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) cosponsored the bill.

The bill would codify Department of Justice protocols that say only a senior official can fire Mueller, who is tasked with investigating Russian election meddling and possible connections to the the Trump campaign.

. Although the bill doesn't expressly bar the president from firing the special counsel, "There's a robust debate among legal scholars across the political spectrum as to whether the bill nevertheless goes too far", the Atlantic reports. Among Republicans, 59 percent oppose firing Mueller. But the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee added to the pressure on McConnell by voting for the measure and saying McConnell should change his mind.

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It's in Trump's interest to not fire Mueller because the investigation will likely vindicate him, Hatch suggested.

That requirement is meant to give Congress some opportunity to take recourse - including potential impeachment - to prevent a special counsel from being terminated without cause. Both senators voted against it in committee. Mike Lee of Utah and Hatch as an alternative to replace the text of the special counsel bill with a "sense of the Senate resolution". Cornyn has repeatedly said that such legislation isn't necessary because he doesn't believe Trump would fire Mueller, calling such a move a "bad mistake" that could cause "all sorts of unintended consequences". John Kennedy (R-La.), who voted down the measure during Thursday's panel vote, told IJR that the bill picks an "unnecessary fight with the president" and that he's confident McConnell won't bring it to the floor. It would require notification if a special counsel were removed.

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Lawmakers also stripped language from the amendment in advance of Thursday's markup that would have required the special counsel to detail reasons that lawmakers could not publicize the information they receive. Grassley acknowledged that he had "constitutional concerns" with the bill, but emphasized that "it's clear that Congress has an oversight role to play" when it comes to how the executive branch wields its power.