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Senate panel punts Mueller protection bill to next week

Senate panel punts Mueller protection bill to next week
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The Senate Judiciary Committee is delaying legislation protecting special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE until next week. 

"We will hold this bill over today at the request of several members of the committee," Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight Dems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October American Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review MORE (R-Iowa) said during a committee meeting on Thursday. 

The bill was expected to be punted. Under committee rules any one member can request that a bill be delayed for a week, and several senators on the panel have concerns about the legislation.

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The move sets up a committee vote next week.

That's weeks after Grassley initially tried to bring the bill up.

The Iowa senator tried to add it to the committee's agenda last week, which would have meant a vote as late as this Thursday.

Under committee rules, he would need Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Pollsters: White college-educated women to decide if Dems capture House Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees American Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review MORE (D-Calif.) to sign off if he wanted to add the bill to the agenda within 72 hours of a meeting.

But Democrats on the panel objected, noting they had yet to see an amendment from Grassley amid concerns that Republicans could try to weaken the special counsel bill.

Grassley said last week that his amendment would increase reporting to Congress, including any administration plans to fire Mueller or any other special counsel.

Though he has yet to say if he will vote for the bill, it's expected to have enough support to clear the committee.

But the bill is facing a roadblock to getting a vote on the Senate floor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials ratchet up fight over drug pricing | McConnell says Republicans could try again on ObamaCare repeal | Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel MORE (R-Ky.) told Fox News that he would not give the bill a floor vote.

"I'm the one who decides what we take to the floor, that's my responsibility as the majority leader, and we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate," he said.

McConnell has argued for months that he doesn't believe legislation protecting the special counsel is necessary. He has said he doesn't believe President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE will fire Mueller, despite Trump's public comments and reported attempts to do so.

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation last week that would codify that only a senior Justice Department official can fire a special counsel and give Mueller or any other special counsel an "expedited review" of any firing.

Under the bill, if a court determined a special counsel wasn't fired for "good cause," the person would be reinstated.

--Updated at 12:04 p.m.