Thursday, September 28, 2006
The Senate on Thursday endorsed President Bush's plans to prosecute and interrogate terror suspects, all but sealing congressional approval for legislation that Republicans intend to use on the campaign trail to assert their toughness on terrorism.
The 65-34 vote means the bill could reach the president's desk by week's end. The House passed nearly identical legislation on Wednesday and was expected to approve the Senate bill on Friday, sending it on to the White House.
The bill would create military commissions to prosecute terrorism suspects. It also would prohibit some of the worst abuses of detainees like mutilation and rape, but grant the president leeway to decide which other interrogation techniques are permissible.
The White House and its supporters have called the measure crucial in the anti-terror fight, but some Democrats said it left the door open to abuse, violating the U.S. Constitution in the name of protecting Americans.
Twelve Democrats sided with 53 Republicans in voting for the bill. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., in a tough re-election fight, joined 32 Democrats and the chamber's lone independent in opposing the bill. Sen. Olympia Snowe (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine, was absent.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio, voting record), R-S.C., who helped draft the legislation during negotiations with the White House, said the measure would set up a system for treating detainees that the nation could be proud of. He said the goal "is to render justice to the terrorists, even though they will not render justice to us."
Democrats said the Republicans' rush to muscle the measure through Congress was aimed at giving them something to tout during the campaign, in which control of the House and Senate are at stake. Election Day is Nov. 7.