Republican concerns about the speed with which the Senate Judiciary Committee planned to consider legislation to extend the term of FBI Director Robert Mueller prompted their request Thursday to delay consideration of the legislation until the next meeting, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the panel, said Thursday.
President Barack Obama on May 12 announced that he asked Congress for a two-year extension of Mueller’s term, which is slated to expire Sept. 4. Under federal law, the Director’s term is set at 10 years.
Grassley and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) were among the senators who introduced legislation on May 26 that would give a one-time, two-year extension for Mueller. The panel on Wednesday held a hearing with Mueller, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey and two constitutional law experts to discuss the legislation.
The top committee Republican on Thursday expressed frustration that the committee planned to vote on the bill before June 15, the deadline for panel members to submit written questions for the hearing witnesses.
“We need to balance moving forward on legislation in a timely pace while ensuring the hearing process provides us answers to important questions about legislation,” Grassley said.
Leahy said senators had the opportunity to ask questions at the hearing. He also expressed concern about the limited amount of time Congress has to act before Mueller’s term expires. The House and Senate would have to pass the legislation during the next few months which are filled with recesses, leaving Congress a limited window to extend his term.
“The delay is not helpful,” Leahy said. “I believe it’s risky and dangerous.”
At the hearing Wednesday, Grassley expressed some apprehension about extending the term of a Director.
Mueller has served longer than any FBI Director since the term limiting law was passed in 1976. The law restricting the Director’s term was passed in response to J. Edgar Hoover’s tenure as the leader of the FBI and its predecessor from 1924 to 1972, in addition to the bureau’s abuses of power.
“We should proceed cautiously in setting a precedent that a 10-year term can be extended,” Grassley said. “If we are going to extend Director Mueller’s term, we should establish a precedent that doing so will be difficult and that unique circumstances necessitating it exist as those are circumstances at this particular time.”