Upholding Sixth Amendment Right to a speedy trial: Republican dispute over holding military detainees for an unlimited time pushes back consideration of Senate authorization
As the lame duck session continues on Capitol Hill, a disagreement between GOP lawmakers over a military detainee amendment has caused a delay in bringing the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill (S.3254) to the Senate floor.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said the differences between Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) should soon be cleared up. Their longstanding debate over his amendment limiting indefinite detention has stalled the Defense authorization bill.
Sen. Paul’s amendment takes a new tack to curb the military’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism by affirming they have the right to a speedy trial by jury under the Sixth Amendment.
His push to change the indefinite detention laws for U.S. citizens follows a contentious fight last year where liberal Senate Democrats waged an unsuccessful attempt to scale back the detention laws before a looming deadline. A compromise was ultimately reached.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made an attempt to bring the bill to the floor earlier, but the bill is now expected to reach the Senate floor later this week.
Sen. Paul’s amendment would insist on the protection of a citizen’s Sixth Amendment rights when captured or arrested in the United States and detained by the military in relation to terrorism.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Armed Services panel and manager of the defense bill, said that after meeting with Sen. Reid he was “optimistic” that the bill would make it to the floor.
Sen. Paul’s amendment would insist on the protection of a citizen’s Sixth Amendment rights when captured or arrested in the United States and detained by the military in relation to terrorism. Sen. Paul wants to ensure the right to a speedy, public trial before an impartial jury and that the accused is informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, can confront any witnesses and has a process for obtaining defense witnesses and counsel.
Sen. Graham has agreed not to block a motion to proceed to the bill with the amendment.
Sens. McCain and Graham each object to Sen. Paul’s amendment. They argue that there has been enormous amounts of debate on the handling of the detainee issue and that these are settled issues in law. They say Sen. Paul’s amendment would add a new wrinkle.
The House passed its version of the bill (H.R. 4310) in May. For the defense policy bill to become law, lawmakers must complete it, then complete a House-Senate conference, adopt the conference report in both chambers and send it to the President before the beginning of the new session of Congress in early January.