With the Senate’s passage of a bill to extend FBI Director Robert Mueller’s term Thursday, focus has now shifted to the House.
Laena Fallon, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the House Majority Leader’s Office, said the House plans to consider the extension early next week. The bill will not go through the House Judiciary Committee, according to a spokeswoman from the committee’s office.
President Barack Obama has pushed to extend Mueller’s term for two more years in order to give continuity to his national security team.
But the measure was held up several times by Senate Republicans – first over concerns that a simple extension of the bill would not pass constitutional muster, and then by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who submitted a letter to Mueller requesting a meeting and asking for answers on FBI policies and operations.
Paul reportedly met with Mueller Thursday and lifted his hold on the bill. In a statement, Paul explained that he would support Mueller’s renomination but not the bill to extend his term.
“I am opposed to changing the term limits on this important position, which serve as a safeguard and check against the significant power of the position,” he said. “I am not opposed to Director Mueller and will not oppose his renomination, but I do oppose the idea that term limits should be changed when it is convenient. I thank him and the bureau for their cooperation and answers to my questions over the last few weeks.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) praised the bill and the bipartisan manner in which it passed in a statement Thursday. But he rejected concerns that the version originally passed by his committee – which would have simply extended Mueller’s term instead of nominating him to a special two-year term as the current version does – rubbed against the Constitution.
“While no senator opposed an extension of Director Mueller’s term, some quibbled over the text of a bill to accomplish this goal, causing unnecessary delay,” Leahy said. “I believe the bill reported by the committee was constitutional, and that the revisions to the bill are unnecessary.
“Nonetheless, I am pleased that a bill passed the Senate today that will maintain continuity of leadership at the FBI as we approach the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, and face continuing threats in the wake of the president’s successful operation against Osama bin Laden,” he said.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee’s ranking Republican, also supported the bill’s passage but raised concerns in a statement.
“This is an extraordinary step that the Senate has taken,” Grassley said. “Thirty-five years ago Congress limited the FBI director’s term to one, 10-year appointment as an important safeguard against improper political influence and abuses of the past.”