Senators voted late Thursday to rewrite some of the key rules in the war on terror, including prohibiting indefinite detention of U.S. citizens captured at home, and a permanent ban on transferring suspected terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States.
That latter move, on a 54-41 vote, defies President Obama's wishes and risks a veto.
The 54-41 vote came as part of the debate on the annual defense policy bill.
"This is a war, and those who were killed on Sept. 11 were victims of this war, and one of the concerns I have is that when you are at wear the priority always has to be to detain those who are captured pursuant to that war in military custody," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, the New Hampshire Republican who wrote the detention amendment.
Earlier in the day Mr. Obama's administration had issued a statement of policy threatening to veto the entire bill in part because it already contained a lesser restriction on detainees.
The White House Office of Management and Budget said Mr. Obama had signed bills in the past even though he objected to restrictions on detainee transfers, calling them "misguided" and saying they infringe on his powers to conduct the war on terror as he sees fit.
Later in the evening senators voted to prohibit indefinite detention of U.S. citizens who are apprehended on U.S. soil, even when they are considered to be targets in the war on terror.
Last year, the defense policy bill included new language that some argued gave the federal government broad new powers to detain American citizens without a trial. That power has been debated, but senators voted to clarify that they do want Americans to have judicial recourse here.
That vote was 67-29, with a coalition of conservatives and liberals joining together to push it through.
"No military authorization allows indefinite detention of United States citizens or green card holders who are apprehended within the United States," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and author of the amendment.
But Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who voted for the amendment, says he still thinks it would allow indefinite detention if Congress has OK'd that. And he said the post-Sept. 11 authorization Congress gave to presidents to pursue the war on terror meets that definition.
"I base this view on the fact that the Supreme Court has said so," he said, pointing to the high court's ruling in the Hamdi case, where it said detention of an American citizen captured overseas was acceptable under the authorization of force.
The Senate changes would still have to be reconciled with a House version of the defense policy bill.
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.