Senate Votes to Rescind Military Detention Authority

There’s good news and bad news from this year’s debate over the National Defense Authorization Act. The good news is that the Senate passed an amendment that would rescind the president’s authority to detain American citizens in military prison indefinitely.

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday night to prohibit the use of law-of-war powers to detain U.S. citizens or legal residents captured on U.S. soil.

The measure, proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, passed 67-29. A total of 20 Republicans joined with 46 Democrats and one independent to back Feinstein’s proposal. Most Republicans voted against the measure, as did Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

The key language in Feinstein’s amendment reads: “An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”

Now let’s see if that can get past the House. I’m betting that it will, actually, because a number of the Tea Party Republican types, like Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, are opposed to that authority and will likely join with Democrats to get rid of it. Now the bad news:

In a separate vote earlier in the evening, senators approved, 54-41, another amendment that seeks to make permanent a ban on moving Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the United States. Such transfers are banned under the current year’s defense authorization bill and various appropriations measures. The language offered by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) would put such a ban in place indefinitely.

Earlier Thursday, the White House threatened a veto of the defense bill prior to the latest amendments being offered. Aides to President Barack Obama have also indicated that he objects to measures like Ayotte’s, but since he has previously signed bills containing similar legislation it is difficult to see why the president would refuse to do so this time around.

The president has never put up much of a fight on that issue and I doubt he would this time either.

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  • jamessweet

    Good to see the Tea Party dipshits are good for something. Why it’s not the case that everybody in Congress who claims any sort of libertarian allegiance isn’t in favor of limiting that kind of power is beyond me…

  • eric

    Horse trading? ‘You give us Guantanamo, we’ll agree to this bill preventing similar detention of US citizens in the future.’

  • baal

    Given the basic idea of, oh dunno, ‘lawful’ I have a hard time being too happy about the first item. It should be beyond conception that indefinite detention (of any type (there are many)) with out charges is ok.

    The founding fathers found that practice so odious* that they wrote the writ of habeus corpus into the constitution (unlike almost all of law). Really, it’s extremely telling that the founders picked this one particular item for enumeration.

    *you can quibble about equivalency between ‘no indef. detention & can’t hold someone w/o adequate reason but it’s more of a quibble than a substantive point.

  • F [disappearing]

    Yes, we need new laws to make illegal things more clearly illegal.

  • eric

    Off Topic, but JT just published a piece on a Michigan bill which will allow hospitals to refuse service to basically anyone they want as a matter of conscience. Link.

    I expect Ed will want to comment on this.

    What a horrible bill. I can only hope that its legislative theater, i.e. something a rep did to look good to his/her constituents, and it has a zero chance of actual passage. And if it does pass, I guess I have to hope that the courts are sane enough to strike it down.

  • richardrathbun

    Just emailed my Republican/TeaParty-ish rep (Woodall, GA-7) about this, pointing what a wonderful opportunity for him to support Freedom(TM) by pushing for the House bill to include same/similar language accomplishing the same end. He generally replies, at least through his staff, so we’ll see what happens.

    Kudos to Feinstein and to the 66 Senators who followed common sense and that thing we call the Constitution to support the amendment.

  • Ichthyic

    Yes, we need new laws to make illegal things more clearly illegal.


    I hereby propose a bill for consideration:

    item 1.) In all articles published by federal and state government in the United States, the word “illegal” shall henceforth be bolded: illegal.

    item 2.) Alternatively, the use of all caps should be preferred: ILLEGAL.

    item 3.) States shall retain flexibility to utilize either method one OR method 2, but it will be illegal to combine both methods.

  • katenrala

    Those prisoners in Guantanamo are apparently just too dangerous to be housed in a stateside prison that houses mass murderers and the like, especially the young teens there who didn’t do anything.

    One day in ConservatopiaUS™, Guantanamo will set the standard for stateside justice and prisons to follow: indefinite detention without charge, torture, and maybe cash kickbacks to police and judges for filling such prisons as some unfortunately have unfairly been punished for by our current Nazi-Commie-Islamist-Atheist-Obomination government, just like Real Americans® want for real America®.

    Hey, if you didn’t do anything wrong you have nothing to fear, and if you do feel fear, you obviously did something wrong and need to be tasered, beaten, and detained for liberty and justice for all.