There are some who act as if torture and habeas corpus are serious matters.
Fortunately, your representatives in Congress aren't the sort of milquetoast bleeding-hearts to believe that old malarky!
The fun was most intense yesterday in the House Judiciary Committee (chaired by old man Sensenbrenner).
Today, Milbank puts me right.(My earlier pieces on the topic.)
Bear in mind first of all that there was no compulsion for the bill to go to Judiciary. It had already been reported out by Armed Services (by the handsome margin of 52-8, indeed) and was good to go.
Why the leadership decided to let Judiciary have a crack at it, God knows. Perhaps as a quid pro quo - that's the usual way on the Hill.
The whole hearing in Judiciary yesterday seems to have been a dog's breakfast.
Trouble was that, while the HASC was stuffed with yes-men, Judiciary was not. On the day, there were GOP missing, and a couple of GOP who jumped ship to oppose HR 6054.
Then, on the crucial vote on a substitute amendment to replace the Administration text with that of the Warner bill - it turned out that two Dem dickheads had waltzed out, and a couple of GOP had crept back. The amendment was rejected.
So, overall, there was no parliamentary coup in Judiciary yesterday, just a business-as-usual shambles.
(There's too little information available to analyze the shenanigans in detail - perhaps there'll be a report from Judiciary; probably there won't be!)
BREAKING NEWS: AP at 1744 ET is reporting that Warner-McCain and the WH have reached a compromise.
Details of the agreement were sketchy.
One official said that under the agreement, the administration agreed to drop language that would have stated an existing ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment was enough to meet Geneva Convention obligations. Convention standards are much broader and include a prohibition on "outrages" against "personal dignity."
The agreement did not extend to a related issue: whether suspects and their lawyers would be permitted to see any classified evidence in the cases against them.
How is this going to go down?
My sense is: International Relations (last House committee to be given a crack at the bill) will release it tomorrow (the last day given it by the Speaker).
What will the House leadership's reaction be to the Warner/WH compromise? If it agrees, it's hard to see the bill not going through like a hot knife through butter - with more than enough Dems voting for to counter GOP neanderthals in opposition.
What if the House leadership decides to stand firm? (Why? Because they are the delusional thin red line against lily-livered commie thinking. Or because they are looking to trade the detainee bill for some other legislation that the Senate are holding up.)
Then, next week, Rules will produce a closed rule for the bill, probably limiting floor activity to a short debate and a motion to recommit. (If the House leadership agrees the Warner/WH compromise, there'll be an amendment to put that in place, I'm thinking.)
The Dems will no doubt offer a MTR with instructions, probably to substitute the text of the Warner bill (S 3901), perhaps with the Specter-Levin amendment (see below) included; if that passes (which would be very unusual), I'm not clear what the House leadership would do. They might decide to let the bill through; or decide to oppose it, at the risk that it might be passed by the Dems and renegade GOP.
In the Senate, I suspect that S 3901 will come to the floor next week, with the Warner people offering an amendment to put in place the agreement with the WH.
There is at least one bipartisan amendment, the Specter-Levin amendment restoring certain habeas corpus rights to detainees covered by the bill.
I would expect that a motion to table that amendment will be offered, and that it should pass, with (say) five GOP renegades, and couple of Dems (Ben Nelson + AN Other) providing the margin.
(Of course, Uncle Dick will be standing by with his cardiology team, just in case.)
All of that action in the Senate could, of course, be upset by senators opposed to the compromise.
Will the Video Doctor offer a prophylactic cloture motion?
Let's see how the Senate Dems are voting on S 3901 in its present form: already we know (from the vote in Armed Services) that several Dem senators favor the bill. Assuming that the Warner/WH agreement amendments are made to the bill, are there enough dissident Dems to defeat such a motion?
My sense is, no. I'd be expecting a margin of around 70-30 on cloture.
I wonder, in fact, whether the GOP can work it so that both House and Senate pass the same text, so that a conference can be avoided, and the bill presented to Bush before the recess.
I'd be intrigued to learn how (in this universe) something like this is not going to happen.
Update [2006-9-21 20:24:36 by skeptic06]:
I hate breaking news.
The world and his wife have evidently been at this story in the couple of hours since it hit the wires. Bummer.
On the other hand, there does seem to be a certain amount of amazement in the FP thread here that the Gang of Three - like the Gang of 14 - just so happened to have discovered the Philospher's Stone of agreement with the WH in the nick of time.
My guess is that, if you burrow deep into the polling numbers, the salience of issues treated in the detainee bills is pretty low. Sure, Joe Sixpack isn't in favor of torture - when you put it to him in the abstract like that.
But, on the finer points of the Constitution, the War Crimes Act, Common Article 3 and such bewildering detail, I suspect he's prepared to trust his legislative representatives.
Especially if he thinks that the cattle prods in question are livening up foreign genitalia.
(Where's been the outrage over extraordinary rendition, for instance?)
And - coming closer to home - where's been the outrage over defective (or zero) body armor for US troops in Iraq? I can't think of a more muckrake-able story than that. Zero impact.
Hence the old cry, What's wrong with you people?
Let's face, if the American voter can face with equanimity photos of large tracts of New Orleans still devastated by Katrina, he's not going to balk at the Warner/WH deal.
So you can hardly blame MCs of both parties if they have other priorities.
Update [2006-9-21 20:24:36 by skeptic06]:
Where does the Warner/WH deal leave the Dems?
Bear in mind (my earlier pieces) that Reid's strategy has been to completely stay away from the substantive issues, but rather focus on the disarray between various elements of the GOP.
Now that this disarray has - disappeared (if it has), they've rather shot his fox. Anything the Dems say on the substance at this point has been devalued by their previous stance.
The Dems did, of course, have the opportunity as soon as the bills emerged from committee a week or ten days ago to take a principled stand on issues like Common Article 3 and habeas corpus. They most carefully avoided another such stand.
And, in the interim, the condemnation of the stance by the lefty sphere has not (so far as I'm aware) been deafening.
As was completely predictable from the start, the GOP has come together in a touching (and no doubt pre-planned) display of unity, and the Dems are left panting like fish stranded on the shore.
Was there anything that the Dems could have done to make their current situation better? Would the consequences of a principled stand have been a great chance for the GOP to paint them yet again as soft on national security?
Right now, the overriding principle guiding the actions of the Dem Congressional leadership is, For God's sake don't rock the boat.
Or, put another way, One More Heave.
You can understand, what with 12 years in the minority and victory (at least in the House) in sight, why that would be the case.