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Cantwell, McGavick differ on terror trial legislation
Posted by David Postman at 7:50 AM
It doesn't seem to be getting attention in the papers this morning but Sen. Maria Cantwell and her Republican challenger, Mike McGavick, have a substantive disagreement on the military tribunal bill approved by the Senate yesterday.
The bill would set up military trials for terror detainees and the debate had been forecast by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist as an important measure of where senators stand on the war on terror. That strategy stumbled some when Republican senators balked at President Bush's original proposal.
But in a race where McGavick has spent more time saying he and Cantwell held nearly identical position on the war in Iraq, the vote draws a distinction on a major national security issue.
The bill which would severely limit defendants' rights, passed 65-34.
Cantwell voted against it. McGavick said he would have supported it.
The New York Times points out that among the 12 Democrats who voted for the measure are some senators in the most difficult re-election fights.
But most Democrats saw little political danger in opposing Bush, according to the Times:
The most vivid example of the Democratic assessment came from the party's many presidential hopefuls in the Senate. All of them voted against the bill, apparently calculating that Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq has undercut the traditional Republican strength on national security and will insulate them from what are certain to be strong attacks from Republicans not only this year but also in 2008.
Cantwell issued a statement yesterday after the vote saying she supported an earlier version passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee but that the bill voted on yesterday "still has critical flaws."
The legislation voted on by the full Senate will permit the Bush Administration to undermine the Geneva Conventions, broadly expand the definition of enemy combatants, allow for coerced and secret evidence and abandon habeus corpus. For more than three years, our ability to try terrorists has been hampered by the Administration's refusal to abide by U.S. law. The provisions in this legislation may be once again deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, only further delaying our goal of bringing the terrorists to justice. Short-term political goals should never come ahead of America's long-term success in the war on terror.
McGavick issued two statements on the issue yesterday, one before the vote and one after. He found it "terribly disappointing" that Cantwell voted against it.
Too often in recent years the Senate hasn't made progress. This bill is an exception. The Bush administration came together with thoughtful critics like Senator McCain and produced a compromise bill designed to strengthen national security.
Another vote today is likely to show differences between the candidates. The Senate is set to vote on a bill that would build a 700-mile fence along the border with Mexico. Cantwell has opposed the move in the past and McGavick has supported it.