- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Senate Republicans appear hopelessly deadlocked over President Bush’s proposal for handling terrorism suspects detained at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Three Republicans — Sens. John W. Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — remain holed up with Democrats, who are adamant that the prisoners be given broader civil rights than are included in the administration’s proposed bill. Most Senate Republicans support the administration’s view that the requested changes would limit intelligence gathering and expose classified information to terrorists.

The Senate Armed Services Committee, which is chaired by Mr. Warner and includes Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham, will take up the bill behind closed doors today and likely make the modifications that Mr. Bush and other Republicans find unacceptable.

Late yesterday, White House officials began calling Republicans on Capitol Hill to say that they have offered to negotiate about as far as they can. The White House is expected to issue some sort of official statement sometime today on where it stands.

If the committee alters the original bill today, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is expected to bypass the committee and introduce the administration’s proposed bill in the coming days and move it directly to the floor. There, amendments will be offered and public votes recorded.

In addition to advancing their campaign against terrorism, Republicans had expected the legislation to create political headaches for Democrats, who could be tarred in the final 7 weeks before November’s elections as soft on terrorism for wanting to grant terror suspects greater civil rights. But Mr. Warner, Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham have muddied the issue, and Democrats have largely stayed out of the fight.

The trio also has aided Democrats in another of the year’s biggest political fights, over illegal immigration.

But for a handful of Republicans — led by Mr. McCain and including Mr. Warner and Mr. Graham — the Republican Congress would likely have long ago approved tough border-security legislation over the objections of most Democrats. This would have been a tremendous boon to Republicans since illegal immigration has proved to be among their most effective campaign issues.

Instead, the Republican Senate approved a bill that would create a path to citizenship for some 10 million illegal aliens and authorize hundreds of thousands of new foreign laborers through a new guest-worker program. The Republican House, meanwhile, has approved tough border-security legislation. And since neither side has budged, the Republican-controlled Congress has failed to enact tough legislation against illegal immigration.

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