- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 14, 2005


The House yesterday endorsed a Senate-passed ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of foreign terrorism suspects as negotiations between the White House and Sen. John McCain over the provision appeared at an impasse.

Approved 308-122, the procedural vote puts political pressure on House negotiators — but does not require them — to include the ban and another provision standardizing interrogation techniques used by U.S. troops in a final wartime military spending bill.

Both provisions are sponsored by Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican. The vote in the House followed a morning meeting between Mr. McCain and President Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, in which the two sides failed to reach a compromise on the provisions.

“At this point, discussions are ongoing,” Mr. Hadley told the Associated Press as he left Mr. McCain’s Capitol Hill office after an hourlong meeting.

“We’re still talking,” Mr. McCain said yesterday afternoon. “We’ll get this resolved one way or another.”

But progress on any compromise appeared stalled just hours later when House Republicans considered a nonbinding effort by Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, to put the House on record supporting Mr. McCain’s provisions.

“We cannot torture and still retain the moral high ground,” said Mr. Murtha, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations defense panel. “There can be no waiver to the use for torture. No torture and no exceptions.”

Rep. Bill Young, Florida Republican and chairman of that panel, said the United States does not torture but that it’s “important that we make it very clear that we are opposed to torture — period.” However, he said he was offended because the provisions would give terrorists too many protections.

For months, House Republican leaders had delayed appointing negotiators for the defense spending bill in part to avoid a House vote on the McCain provisions. Leaders had been waiting for the result of negotiations between the White House and Mr. McCain.

Congressional aides cautioned that a vote did not signal a deal between the administration and the senator, and some aides said the two sides remained far apart.

Nevertheless, Mr. Young said: “We hope that a reasonable agreement on this issue will be reached.”

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