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Senate okays detainee measure

The measure, a victory for the White House, is expected to reach the president this week.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published September 29, 2006


WASHINGTON - 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 a nearly identical bill on Wednesday and was expected to approve the Senate bill today, sending it on to the White House.

Florida's two senators were split on the bill, with Republican Mel Martinez voting for it and Democrat Bill Nelson against it.

The bill would create military commissions to prosecute terrorism suspects. It also would prohibit blatant abuses of detainees but grant the president flexibility to decide what interrogation techniques are legally permissible.

The White House and its supporters say the measure is crucial in the fight against terrorists. Some Democrats contend it leaves the door open to abuse, violating the U.S. Constitution in the name of protecting Americans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, 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 Republicans hurried the measure through Congress so they could tout it during the campaign.

"There is no question that the rush to pass this bill - which is the product of secret negotiations with the White House - is about serving a political agenda," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

Senate approval was the latest step in the remarkable journey that Bush has taken in shaping how the United States treats the terrorism suspects it has been holding, some for almost five years.

The Supreme Court nullified Bush's initial system for trying detainees in June, and earlier this month a handful of dissenting GOP senators blocked the president's next proposal. But they struck a deal last week.

While Democrats said the bill could open the way for abuse, Republicans said defeating the bill would put the country at risk of another terrorist attack.

"We are not conducting a law enforcement operation against a check-writing scam or trying to foil a bank heist," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "We are at war against extremists who want to kill our citizens."

[Last modified September 29, 2006, 01:27:01]


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