Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans are plowing ahead with their plan to pass a bill out of the committee that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller, despite Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's vow not to put the measure on the Senate floor.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, told CNN on Wednesday that he was "moving ahead" with the bipartisan legislation, which is expected to be marked up next week.
"He sets the agenda for the United States Senate and that's the way it is, but we're moving ahead anyway," Grassley said.
The bill, which was co-authored by Republican Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey, would make it harder for President Donald Trump to fire Mueller by allowing Mueller to seek a 10-day expedited judicial review if he's dismissed.
The legislation is seen as a potential buffer against concerns that Trump will try to fire Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller's probe.
The measure is on the Judiciary Committee's agenda for Thursday, but due to the panel's rules the bill will be marked up the following week.
Tillis and Graham, the bill's Republican sponsors, say they think the committee should pass the measure even if McConnell doesn't plan to put it on the floor.
"The committee is doing what we think needs to be done, and let the leader do what he thinks needs to be done," Graham said.
Tillis suggested that McConnell could be eventually convinced to change course.
"It's on us to get the votes and then talk to the leader," Tillis said. "If I were the leader I wouldn't bring a bill to the floor that I didn't think had a realistic chance of passing."
McConnell said in a Fox News interview Tuesday that he wouldn't put the bill on the floor.
"I don't think he should fire Mueller and I don't think he's going to," the Kentucky Republican said in the interview. "So this is a piece of legislation that isn't necessary, in my judgment."
While the bill is bipartisan, a planned amendment from Grassley has Democrats concerned that he's going to try to undercut the bill, although Republicans say those concerns are unfounded. A Republican aide said the amendment, which hasn't been released, would add reporting requirements to Congress, including notifications about changes to the probe's scope and notice of the special counsel's firing.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, says she still needs to see the amendment from Grassley but that as long as the bill remains acceptable, it's worth passing it out of the committee so it would be ready to move if the circumstances surrounding Mueller changed.