The Republican-led Senate voted overwhelmingly last night to impose restrictions on the treatment of terrorism suspects, delivering a rare wartime rebuke to President Bush.
Defying the White House, senators voted 90-9 to approve an amendment that would prohibit the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” against anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held.
The amendment was added to a $440 billion military spending bill for the budget year that began Oct. 1.
The proposal, sponsored by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, also requires all service members to follow procedures in the Army Field Manual when they detain and interrogate suspects. Bush administration officials say the bill would limit the president’s authority and flexibility in war.
But lawmakers from each party have said Congress must provide U.S. troops with clear standards for detaining, interrogating and prosecuting terrorism suspects in light of charges of mistreatment at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
“We demanded intelligence without ever clearly telling our troops what was permitted and what was forbidden. And when things went wrong, we blamed them and we punished them,” said Mr. McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam.
“Our troops are not served by ambiguity. They are crying out for clarity, and Congress cannot shrink from this duty,” Mr. McCain said.
The Senate was expected to vote on the overall spending bill by week’s end.
The House-approved version of the spending bill does not include detainee provisions, and it was not clear how much support the measure has in the Republican-run House.
But Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, has thrown his support behind Mr. McCain’s legislation and could be a powerful ally when House and Senate negotiators meet to iron out differences in their bills.
Senators debated the measures as Army Capt. Ian Fishback of the 82nd Airborne Division, who recently claimed widespread prisoner abuse in Iraq, met privately with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and support for the legislation gained steam.
Many Republican senators say Congress must sign off on standards for detaining, interrogating and prosecuting suspects in the war on terror in light of accusations of mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay and the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
All nine senators who voted against the provision were Republicans — Wayne Allard of Colorado, Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, John Cornyn of Texas, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and Ted Stevens of Alaska.
Democrat Jon Corzine of New Jersey was the only senator not to vote.
Mr. Stevens said the administration is concerned that requiring all U.S. troops to follow procedures in the Army manual is not practical in the current war environment when multinational forces are working together.
With such limits on U.S. interrogation techniques, Mr. Stevens said, there is a legitimate fear: “The custody will go to the other nationalities involved in the team. And we’ll have no control.”