CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS
Oct. 18, 2011 – 1:36 p.m.
Reid May Allow Detainee Provisions
By John M. Donnelly, CQ Staff
Senate Majority Leader
In remarks Tuesday on the Senate floor, the Nevada Democrat for the first time allowed for the possibility that the bill (
It is not clear whether the issue will be resolved that way or by some other legislative maneuver. But leaders of both parties sounded optimistic for the first time in weeks about the measure’s prospects.
Republicans insist that the detainee provisions remain in the bill, and some have said they are not interested in a Democratic proposal to hold a separate vote on the detainee provisions outside of the larger defense policy bill.
Reid and the White House primarily oppose provisions that would require certain alleged terrorists to be kept in military, and not civilian, custody.
Reid said he has continued to talk with Armed Services Chairman
“I’m hopeful these concerns can be resolved,” Reid said. “But, of course, if they can’t be, the only way to resolve them would be on the Senate floor. I hope that, in the next several days, we can work something out on this somewhat difficult provision that’s in the bill reported out of committee.”
Reid added: “My colleagues have said several times they believe these provisions ought to be considered in regular order, and the Senate ought to proceed to debate them. As I said a few minutes ago, if that’s the only avenue we have, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Reid previously said he would not even consider the larger bill unless those provisions were excised. He was open to considering them in a freestanding measure, but now appears to be acceding to Republican demands that the bill be considered as is.
Speaking to reporters later in the day, Reid said that discussions have been under way for weeks on the detainee provisions, including with senators from the Judiciary and Intelligence committees.
“Significant progress is being made,” he said. “We’re going to move to that [bill] before the year’s out.”
Reid’s floor remarks came just after a colloquy in which several Republican senators on the Armed Services Committee assailed the majority leader for blocking the bill over the detainee provisions.
Reid May Allow Detainee Provisions
“Now, because of one small piece of this bill, the majority leader — at the behest of the White House — has decided we will not take up the defense authorization bill for the first time in 50 years,” McCain said on the floor, calling it “a betrayal of the men and women who are serving this nation.”
Later, McCain told reporters he viewed Reid’s comments as a clear indication that the bill approved by the Armed Services Committee will come to the floor without alterations. “I take him at his word,” McCain said.
Open to Interpretation
Reid’s comments, however, appear to be open to some interpretation. Levin said he hopes the Senate will take up the measure after next week’s recess, but insisted that the issue of the detainee provisions remains unresolved.
One possibility would be to find some way to strike the detainee language from the committee-approved bill before floor debate begins; the other option would be to consider an amendment to strike the provisions during floor debate. Levin said he prefers sending the current version of the committee’s bill to the floor, but he said nixing the detainee language and debating it as an amendment could be a “reasonable” alternative.
“There’s a number of ways to skin this cat,” Levin said. “But one way or another, it’s going to get skinned.”
The Republican senators continued to defend the detainee provisions, saying civilian courts were not the appropriate venue for trying war prisoners. And they pointed out that the president can waive the requirement for military custody if national security demands it.
“To the White House: We’re not going to change this bill,” said
Megan Scully contributed to this story.