Collins breaks with Flake, refuses to compel vote on protecting Mueller

Senator Susan Collins has declined to join her Republican colleague Sen. Jeff Flake in using the processes of the Senate to insist on a bill to protect the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and related crimes.

“I’d rather it be considered separately on the Senate floor,” Collins told Sahil Kapur‏, a political reporter for Bloomberg, in response to Democrats’ intent to attach the special counsel bill to another “must-pass” spending bill. “I don’t want anything that could lead to a shutdown.”

Alongside Democrat Sen. Chris Coons, Flake had requested to bring the protection bill — dubbed the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act and designed to guardrail the Mueller investigation from President Donald Trump’s potential interference — to the Senate floor for debate and a vote on Wednesday. His request was rejected by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Now, as a majority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which passed the protection bill in April, Flake said he is committed to not advancing upcoming judicial nominees until the bill receives a vote.

“When you have the attorney general fired, and the oversight for the investigation moved to someone who has not received Senate confirmation, who has expressed open hostility to the Mueller investigation, there’s a problem,” Flake said following McConnell’s decision to not bring the “languishing” bill to the floor.

Collins’ reluctance to join Flake in forcing a vote comes a little more than a week after she declared on Twitter that “Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller must be allowed to complete his work without interference.”

Maine State Sen. Shenna Bellows, who ran against Collins in 2014, wrote on Twitter that Maine’s senior senator “could join [Flake] and should if she cares about the rule of law.”

Despite Collins’ stated preference for the bill to be considered separately, the possibility of a separate vote seems unlikely given McConnell’s insistence that the investigation is “in no danger.”

(Top photo from Susan Collins’ official Facebook page)

(Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to show that Bellows ran against Collins in 2014, not 2016.)

About Cara DeRose

Avatar photoCara DeRose is a staff writer for Beacon. A graduate of the University of Southern Maine, she served as writer and copy editor for the USM Free Press and interned at the Portland Press Herald.

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