Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday ruled out a Senate floor vote on legislation to restrict President Trump’s ability to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” McConnell, R-Ky., said during an interview with Fox News.
McConnell’s edict comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee was preparing to take up a bipartisan bill that would specify Mueller could only be fired for misconduct or “good cause” and could only ousted by a Senate-confirmed official at the Department of Justice.
President Trump has grown increasingly angry about Mueller’s probe, which is examining possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election and other matters. Last week, Trump told reporters that “many people” have told him he should fire Mueller and did not rule out taking that step.
Some media outlets have also reported that Trump is considering firing the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe.
Such comments have made some Republicans nervous. Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, is among those pushing for a vote on the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which would also give a special counsel the ability to go to court to challenge a firing.
“This compromise bipartisan bill helps ensure that special counsels – present or future – have the independence they need to conduct fair and impartial investigations,” Tillis said last week.
Democrats have also been pushing for action on the bill. But McConnell and other Republican leaders have shrugged off Trump’s comments, saying they don’t believe Trump will fire Mueller so there’s no need for legislation to protect the special counsel.
“There’s no indication that Mueller’s going to be fired,” McConnell told Fox’s Neil Cavuto.
McConnell’s went a step further than he has in the past — saying not only that he does not think the bill is necessary but also ruling out a floor vote even if the measure wins committee approval.
“I’m the one who decides what (bills) we take to the floor,” McConnell said.
The Senate’s top Democrat, Charles Schumer of New York, said McConnell was making a grave mistake.
“We ought to head off a constitutional crisis at the pass, rather than waiting until it’s too late,” Schumer said. “I hope the Judiciary Committee moves forward with a bill, and that members of Senator McConnell’s caucus push him to reconsider.”
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, also blasted McConnell.
“I think it’s a complete abdication of responsibility,” Schiff said.
“If President Trump fires Rod Rosenstein or Robert Mueller, is Mitch McConnell going to say he didn’t see it coming?” Schiff said in an interview. “Nobody is going to be able to say that with a straight face.”
McConnell also threw cold water on a proposal, floated by the White House and House Republicans, to rescind some funding included in the $1.3 trillion spending bill that Congress passed last month.
That sweeping legislation was the result of months-long bipartisan negotiations between McConnell and the three other top congressional leaders. He suggested the White House should not be trying to unravel a bill that Trump supported.
“He was involved in the negotiation and signed the bill,” McConnell told Cavuto. “He can’t make an agreement one month and say, ‘OK, we really didn’t mean it,’ and come back the next month and say, ‘Oh, we really didn’t mean our agreement.'”