The Senate soundly defeated a move to strip out controversial language requiring mandatory detention of some terror suspects, voting it down 61 to 37 and escalating a fight with the Obama administration over the future course of the war on terror.
The proposed amendment to the massive National Defense Authorization Act would require the FBI and other civilian law enforcement agencies to transfer al-Qaida suspects arrested overseas on charges of planning or carrying out a terror attack into military custody. It wouldn’t apply to American citizens, but the change has drawn strong opposition from civil rights groups and the White House, which has promised to veto the defense bill if that language was included.
The provision has also split the Democratic Party, triggering an unusual fight between the White House and Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, who co-wrote the measure and took to the floor earlier on Tuesday to defend the amendment. Levin has also found himself in the cross hairs of powerful Democrats like Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California. Both lawmakers urged their colleagues to strip the detainee language out of the bill and accused Levin of overstepping his jurisdiction.
But Levin’s biggest Democratic opponent was Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who sponsored an amendment designed to remove the detainee language.