- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

President Bush yesterday offered to compromise on his hard-line stance that Congress curb rights for terrorism suspects, as the White House announced it will send lawmakers a revised proposal intended to overcome increasing resistance from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said the administration would send new language to the Hill in hopes of reaching an agreement and quell a Republican revolt. Last week, four Republicans, led by Chairman John W. Warner of Virginia, joined all Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee, voting 15-9 to expand the rights of terror suspects.

“Our commitment to finding a resolution is real and that’s why we’re going to be sharing some language, because we are eager to find a resolution,” Mrs. Perino said.

An administration official said last night that the new language offered by the White House pertains only to U.S. obligations under the Geneva Conventions, which govern treatment of prisoners of war. The president has questioned the conventions rule that prisoners not be subject to “outrages upon human dignity.”

“That’s a statement that is wide open to interpretation,” Mr. Bush said in a press conference Friday. “And what I am proposing is that there be clarity in the law so that our professionals will have no doubt that that which they are doing is legal.”

Mr. Bush said, “The piece of legislation I sent up there provides our professionals that which is needed to go forward.”

The president also contends that without such clarity, the program cannot proceed. He said Friday, “If not for this program, our intelligence community believes al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland.”

Mr. Warner and fellow Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were to get the latest proposal on the president’s bill late last night, and Mr. Graham said that the outreach is appreciated.

“Like all negotiations, this is and will continue to be a back-and-forth exchange of thoughts and proposals,” Mr. Graham said. “We share the president’s goal of enacting legislation preserving an effective CIA program to make us safe, upholding Geneva Convention protections for our troops and passing constitutional muster.”

A week after the Senate committee defied Mr. Bush, three more Republican senators said they oppose the administration’s version, joining the four committee Republicans who voted against it. Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine said they favor Mr. Warner’s bill.

Although the Republican Party holds 55 seats in the 100-member Senate, Mr. Bush’s proposal would fail if Democrats vote against the measure in a unified bloc, as expected.

In a further setback for the White House, the House announced yesterday that it would postpone a vote planned for tomorrow on a bill mirroring Mr. Bush’s proposal.

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