The Democratically-controlled Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed an enormous $662 billion defense bill, including a provision that would give the military the responsibility to indefinitely detain suspected terrorists, even if they are American citizens caught on U.S. soil.
Despite a vow from President Obama that he would veto the bill if it still contained the dangerous detainment provision, the Senate blocked not one but two attempts to strip it from the legislation, ultimately passing the bill in a 93-7 vote.
The first attempt was from Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), who proposed getting rid of the provision. The Senate rejected that amendment Wednesday in a 61-37 vote. The second attempt occurred on Thursday and came from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who offered an amendment to lessen the measure by specifying that it applied to non-U.S. citizens captured “abroad.” That failed 55-45.
The provision on the detainment of suspected terrorists would codify a truly extreme principle into law. That American citizens can be captured on American soil and jailed indefinitely without charge or trial would be a radical departure from a system based on the rule of law.
The Obama administration has promised a veto of the bill with this provision, not for the sake of the rule of law and the habeas corpus rights of Americans, but because it would restrict the President’s prerogative to decide whether to put suspects in civilian courts or in the hands of the military.