Skip to comments.Senate leaders to call for detainee vote
Posted on 09/15/2006 10:35:43 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
WASHINGTON - Senate GOP leaders facing rebellion in their own ranks against President Bush's plan to interrogate and prosecute terrorism suspects will call for a vote on the proposal as early as next week.
Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell said no decision had been made on when to vote on the measure, which critics say does not go far enough to protect suspects' rights. He added that he hoped a floor vote would settle the issue.
A Republican-led Senate committee defied Bush on Thursday and approved terror-detainee legislation the president has vowed to block. Republican Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record) of Virginia, normally a Bush supporter, pushed the measure through his Senate Armed Services Committee by a 15-9 vote, with Warner and three other GOP lawmakers joining Democrats.
The president's measure would go further than that bill, allowing classified evidence to be withheld from defendants in terror trials and using coerced testimony. The legislation also would revise the law that interprets the nation's obligations under the Geneva Conventions, the treaty that sets the standard for treatment of war prisoners, so that harsh interrogations of detainees would not be questioned in court.
Bush on Friday defended the program as necessary to prevent future terrorist attacks and provide legal clarity to those carrying out the CIA interrogation program.
"These are decent citizen who don't want to break the law," Bush said.
At a White House news conference, he reiterated his threat to reject legislation that would leave unclear the legality of the program, noting it has "provided valuable information and helped prevent terrorist plots."
Warner as well as Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., oppose the legislation because they say barring a defendant from access to evidence even if done under rare circumstances would undermine the credibility of the court.
In a letter Friday to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Graham asked Rice, who this week defended the president's plan as legally sound, whether she would be comfortable with Iran imposing a similar restriction if trying a CIA paramilitary operative.
"Madame Secretary, I can assure you that I would object to such a trial with every ounce of my being," Graham wrote. He added that such legislation "would surely never survive judicial scrutiny by our own courts."
The election-year debate has pitted Republicans against each other and kept in limbo the legal bounds of a CIA program to detain and interrogate "high-value" terrorism suspects. A successful vote for Bush also would allow the president to begin prosecuting detainees allegedly connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
McConnell, R-Ky., is expected to champion Bush's proposal on the floor. "We know (the program) has worked. We know it has saved lives. And we know the Director of the CIA said that under the alternative bill, that program will have to be shut down."
With the two sides unable to reach an accord, McConnell said it was time to "let the Congress work its will."
Eleven Armed Services Committee Democrats joined Warner, McCain, Graham and Maine Republican Susan Collins in voting in favor of the alternative legislation.
The vote by the moderate Collins underscored that there might be broad enough GOP support to successfully take on Bush on the floor of the Republican-run Senate.
As the battle mushrooms, it threatens to undermine campaign season assertions by the administration that it has shown a steady hand on security matters and that Republicans should be trusted over Democrats on such issues.
Bush still has many congressional allies, including House and Senate leaders and conservatives, who want to align themselves with the president's tough stance on interrogation and prosecution. The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday passed a bill that supports the administration's position by 52-8.
But that support is not universal.
Rep. Ike Skelton (news, bio, voting record) of Missouri, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he supports the Senate approach championed by McCain and others because it would be less likely to be challenged by the Supreme Court as unlawful and violating the nation's treaty obligations. He voted this week in favor of a committee bill that supports the administration's position to "move the process along," but said he will attempt to amend the measure when the bill reaches the floor next week.
"I don't want to give any terrorist a free pass or get-out-of-jail-free card," Skelton said.
Bush was forced to propose the measure after the Supreme Court ruled in June that his existing court system established to prosecute terrorism suspects was illegal and violated the Geneva Conventions. The White House legislation would create military commissions to prosecute terror suspects, as well as redefine acts that constitute war crimes.
McCain, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, has become a moral authority in Congress on prisoner of war issues. The former Navy pilot spent more than five years in enemy captivity during the Vietnam War and last year successfully pushed through legislation opposed by the president that banned cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of military detainees.
McConnell acknowledged the president's proposal could lose, but said the war on terror "doesn't stop for elections." The senator also questioned whether Democrats would side against the president's proposal when trying to prove to the American public they are tough on national security.
"I think it would be awkward for Democratic senators to vote in favor of giving classified information to the terrorists," he said.
Senate Armed Services Committee member, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., left, looks on as chairman, Sen. John Warner, R-Va. presides over a markup meeting on detainee legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
U.S. President George W. Bush holds a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington September 15, 2006. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)
I just got back...had to miss the president's press conf :(
There's going to be a fight on the floor of the Senate.
Senate Armed Services Committee members, from left, chairman, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. confer during a markup meeting on detainee legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
I keep forgetting to add you to my "mental" ping list..thanks for having me on yours.
Were you on the thread last night that was about how Lindsey and McCain have both said that NO WAY are they going to back down.
Bush seemed like he was trying to tell them today..that he will give them one more chance to work WITH him, and not against him.
We just have to pray that the vote against Bush isn't veto proof.
Senate Armed Services Committee members, from left, Sen. John McCain, Ariz., Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. leave a closed-door hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006 to discuss detainee legislation. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
I wonder if Madame Senator swaps outfits with Cynthia McKinney..
You MUST watch the replay on C-SPAN -- 8:00PM EDT.
POTUS nailed David Gregory. KO'd him.
Anyone that chubby should NEVER, EVER wear that outfit.
Condi could get away with it...but she has better taste.
Try to watch a replay of news conference.....It's awesome! David Gregory got a major slapping...
Without a DOUBT...this is the MOST hilarious photo of the week..hell..maybe the month..
What a grandstanding fool.
This is sickening - that a US Senator would 1.) draw a comparison between a CIA undercover operative and a terrorist pig, and 2.) think that Iran would afford any kind of a fair trial should said operative actually be caught in an act of sabotage or other violence.
Enjoy the luxury of these asinine debates over legal niceties now, folks; the day is coming when western civilization will be backed into a corner and such discussion will be completely moot. Until we prosecute this war against radical Islam with our full fury and might the insanity and carnage will drag on indefinitely.
Thanks! Good for him:) I'll make a point to listen to the replay..
When is this floor fight (vote) to take place?
Lets see if the real republicans have some cojones!!! It's a fight worth fighting for many reasons.
Good Idea.....Make these Senators go on record.
Early next week.
You should hear her talk these days...she says Ya-know 3 times in every sentence. I think she's breaking and will be discovered for what she is. We should run clips of her sayin yah-know over and over. Its not something an intelligent Senator should say.
LOL...don't ya love it when you can answer your own question? :) Yep..next week..we'll have to stock up on popcorn..