Se­nate, House at odds over mov­ing Guan­tanamo de­tainees

Repub­li­cans fear those held would gain rights

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY JAC­QUE­LINE KLI­MAS

The Se­nate voted Mon­day night to ease re­stric­tions on trans­fer­ring sus­pected ter­ror­ist de­tainees from the prison at Guan­tanamo Bay to the U.S., over­com­ing GOP ob­jec­tions and giv­ing Pres­i­dent Obama at least a tem­po­rary vic­tory on the an­nual de­fense pol­icy bill.

But the fi­nal fight is still to come when the Se­nate will have to work out a com­pro­mise with the House, which passed its own de­fense pol­icy bill ear­lier this year that in­cludes strict re­stric­tions pre­vent­ing trans­fers.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans tried to block the loos­en­ing of Guan­tanamo trans­fers, say­ing they fear it could end up grant­ing de­tainees con­sti­tu­tional rights they don’t get when they’re be­ing held at the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba.

“I have to make sure that our coun­try re­mains safe and that we don’t send peo­ple from Guan­tanamo back in the fight against our men and women in uni­form in Afghanistan or against our in­ter­ests any­where in the world,” Sen. Kelly Ay­otte, the New Hamp­shire Repub­li­can who led the GOP fight, told re­porters.

But her amend­ment to pre­serve tight re­stric­tions was de­feated 55-43. Three Democrats — Sens. Joe Don­nelly of Indiana, Mark L. Pryor of Arkansas and Kay R. Ha­gan of North Carolina— voted for her pro­posal, while three Repub­li­cans — Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain of Ari­zona, and Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky — voted against it.

The vote marks a ma­jor shift from last year, when Ms. Ay­otte’s pro­posal passed on a 54-41 vote.

Six se­na­tors who voted for the amend­ment last year switched their votes this year, while a num­ber of oth­ers have re­tired from the Se­nate and were re­placed by op­po­nents.

Min­utes af­ter the Ay­otte amend­ment was de­feated, the Se­nate turned back another pro­posal by Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Carl Levin, Michi­gan Demo­crat, that would have also al­lowed trans­fers but would have made clear Congress didn’t in­tend for the de­tainees to get any new rights even if they were on U.S. soil.

But even with that de­feat, the un­der­ly­ing de­fense bill still in­cludes the re­laxed re­stric­tions on trans­fers.

Next up on the bill is a fight over the mil­i­tary’s sex­ual as­sault pol­icy.

Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand, New York Demo­crat, has pro­posed an amend­ment that would strip com­man­ders of their abil­ity to pros­e­cute some mil­i­tary crimes, such as sex as­sault. She said it would im­prove the fair­ness of the process and re­duce re­tal­i­a­tion, which re­ports show have both been prob­lems in th­ese kinds of cases.

She got a boost Tues­day when Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid said he would sup­port her plan.

“I will sup­port Gil­li­brand, and Sen. Levin knows that,” Mr. Reid told re­porters.

Ms. Gil­li­brand’s pro­posal has di­vided the Demo­cratic Party. Mr. Levin and Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Demo­crat, have both spo­ken out pub­licly against Ms. Gil­li­brand’s pro­posal.

Ms. Gil­li­brand’s of­fice says she has sup­port of 50 se­na­tors, as of Tues­day af­ter­noon. Still, that’s not enough to pass the 60-vote thresh­old that op­po­nents are likely to re­quire.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

An amend­ment in­tro­duced by Sen. Kelly Ay­otte, New Hamp­shire Repub­li­can, to pre­serve tight re­stric­tions on Guan­tanamo de­tainees was de­feated by a vote of 55 to 43 in the Se­nate.

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