Senate Republicans have placed several roadblocks between President Barack Obama and his plan to extend the term of FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, the New York Times reported.
The unexpected difficulty of extending his term raises the possibility that Mueller would have to step down at the end of his 10th year in office, which had been slated for Sept. 4 until an administration legal team decided Mueller’s last day will likely be Aug. 2 – ten years after his President George W. Bush signed his appointment on Aug. 3, 2001.
In May, Obama began pushing for a bill that would extend the director’s term until after he left office. A bill extending the term two years was soon introduced by a bipartisan group that included Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).
But several Republicans led by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said the passage of legislation that would simply extend Mueller’s term could raise constitutional problems. They suggested instead that Obama renominate him to a special term that would require Senate confirmation.
Coburn had raised similar concerns during discussion in the Senate Judiciary Committee, when he introduced an amendment to create a new term that he said would ensure the extension could not be challenged in court.
But Chairman Leahy denied any constitutional issues, and the amendment was tabled. The bill passed the committee on a vote of 11-7, mostly along part lines.
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel also released a memo concluding that a straight-forward extension of Mueller’s term squared with the Constitution.
However, White House officials quietly agreed to the special-term approach last week, they told the Times.
But now, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has exercised his power to block a swift vote on the bill, substantially shortening the timeline needed to pass a bill and avoid disruption of the FBI.
In a letter sent to Mueller last week, Paul asked about a host of FBI cases and policies and requested a meeting with the director.