Thursday, December 15, 2005

Today's Two-fer Times Two

I don't know which surprises me more: Congress defying the White House twice in one week or the NY Times reporting that news in two articles in one day's edition. I will say that having both occur at the same time started this Thursday off right for me.

First, the Times reported that the House had a very non-controversial (albeit non-binding) vote on Senator John McCain's amendment to a military spending bill.

In an unusual bipartisan rebuke to the Bush administration, the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed Senator John McCain's measure to bar cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners in American custody anywhere in the world.

Although the vote was nonbinding, it put the Republican-controlled House on record in support of Mr. McCain's provision for the first time, at the very moment when the senator, a Republican, is at a crucial stage of tense negotiations with the White House, which strongly opposes his measure.

The vote also likely represents the lone opportunity that House members will have to express their sentiments on Mr. McCain's legislation. The Senate approved the measure in October, 90 to 9, as part of a military spending bill. But until Wednesday, the House Republican leadership had sought to avoid a direct vote on the measure to avoid embarrassing the White House.

The vote was on a motion to instruct House negotiators, who had just been appointed to work out differences between the House and Senate spending bills, to accept the Senate position on the McCain amendment.
[Emphasis added]

Although the vote in favor of the motion (308 to 122) did not reflect the two-thirds majority needed for a veto over-ride, it was close enough to the mark that a veto is not likely by this image- conscious White House. McCain is now in a position to tell the White House that further negotiations on 'exceptions' are unnecessary. Hopefully, he will have the spine to do so.

The second bit of good news comes from the US Senate and is clearly related to the first.

The Senate is poised to approve a measure that would require the Bush administration to provide Congress with its most specific and extensive accounting about the secret prison system established by the Central Intelligence Agency to house terrorism suspects.

The measure includes amendments that would require the director of national intelligence to provide regular, detailed updates about secret detention facilities maintained by the United States overseas, and to account for the treatment and condition of each prisoner.

While the C.I.A. has provided limited briefings to members of Congress about the detention facilities, the information has generally been shared with only a handful of Congressional leaders, who are prohibited from discussing the information with their colleagues. The Senate measure would widen that circle considerably, by requiring the director of national intelligence to provide reports each 90 days to the House and Senate intelligence committees. Among other things, the reports would be required to address the size, location and cost of each detention facility; "the health and welfare" of each prisoner there, and whether the treatment of those prisoners had been humane.
[Emphasis added]

A vote has not yet occurred on this measure, but the article points out that it is on the 'unanimous consent' track. Although this tactic traditionally provides cover for vulnerable senators without the spine to vote openly, on this occasion it would have the effect of showing a united Senate on this issue. The White House would have to notice, as would the world.

This is getting to be a very interesting holiday season.


Blogger Elmo said...

When McCain and Bush shook hands I shiverd, felt strangly cold...please lord don't let this be an omen. Please.

10:10 PM  

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