(Bloomberg) -- Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said Thursday he’s determined to hold a committee vote next week on a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s job, but his path to getting a vote by the full Senate may rely on convincing Republican leaders that the measure isn’t aimed at President Donald Trump.
That won’t be easy given the widespread concern that Trump may fire Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Grassley appears to be trying to add safeguards to protect the rule of law without alienating Trump’s fervent base.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he won’t put the bill on the floor, but some senators say advancing the measure could become an insurance policy -- and perhaps the starting point for a congressional response -- if Trump defies their advice and acts to fire Mueller anyway.
The measure, to be considered by the Judiciary committee next Thursday, would let the special counsel seek an expedited judicial review of any dismissal, which must be for “good cause.”
Grassley told reporters the bill isn’t just about Mueller.
"I think this bill has as much to do with decades into the future as it does just with Mueller, because I don’t think Mueller’s going to be fired," said Grassley of Iowa. "I don’t think Mueller is the reason for passing this bill."
And Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican sponsor of the measure, warned Democrats not to play politics with it, saying that doing so would doom it. He insisted he’s not filing the bill because he’s worried about Mueller -- or Trump.
"I trust this president on this issue. What I don’t trust are future presidents that I don’t know yet," he said.
"If we go down and we pass it out of the committee and we make a lot of political theater, it’s going to go nowhere," Tillis said. "And shame on everybody who wants to make a point and not make a difference."
Grassley declared his independence from McConnell in his remarks.
"The views of the majority leader are important to consider, but they do not govern what happens here on the Judiciary Committee," Grassley said. "If consideration on the floor was the standard for reporting bills, then we wouldn’t do half the legislation we normally do."
Grassley said no senator has talked to him directly to complain about considering the bill. He hasn’t committed to voting for the legislation himself, and said he’s planning to release his own amendment soon that would require more disclosure about the status of a special counsel investigation.
Senate Democrats Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, meanwhile, called for swift passage of the bill to protect the rule of law. Harris cited reports that Trump had ordered staff on multiple times to fire Mueller only to be talked out of it by his staff.
"I believe the possibility that he may be fired is very real," said Harris of California, also noting that Trump has repeatedly labeled the Russia investigation a "witch hunt."
Harris said there would be an "appearance of an authoritarian regime and not a democracy" if someone is able to simply change the rules "because they don’t like where the facts are leading."
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