The Senate on Tuesday passed the annual defense authorization bill containing language that would allow al-Qaida suspects to be taken into military custody rather than tried in the American civilian court system. Last week, the White House threatened to veto the bill if such language was included.
The bill would allow the military to detain terrorism suspects found on U.S. soil and hold them indefinitely without trial.
Democrat Mark Udall of Colorado proposed an amendment to the bill which would have put the detention provisions under further review, thus stripping the military of custody of terror suspects on U.S. soil.
“The provisions would dramatically change broad counterterrorism efforts by requiring law enforcement officials to step aside and ask the Department of Defense to take on a new role they are not fully equipped for and do not want,” said Udall, as reported by The Associated Press.
Republican senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mark Kirk of Illinois both supported Udall’s efforts. According to Politico, Paul warned that the bill’s provisions could be a slippery slope for Americans citizens being detained without trial.
However, the amendment was struck down and the bill passed with a vote of 61-37, with 16 Democrats and one independent ignoring President Obama’s veto threat and siding with the 44 Republicans in passing the bill.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) who supported the bill without Udall’s amendment, told Politico that “using the military to subdue terrorist operatives abroad but leaving them to the criminal justice system inside the U.S. would almost encourage [them] to come to America, unfortunately, to attack us."
The Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat, and ranking Republican member John McCain also defended the provisions.
“Should somebody when it’s been determined ... to be a member of an enemy force who has come to this nation or is in this nation to attack us as a member of a foreign enemy, should that person be treated according to the laws of war? And the answer is yes,” said Levin according to The Washington Post.
Levin also said that the bill allows for a national security waiver for the administration.
"These provisions have been substantially modified as a result of extensive discussions with administration officials," Levin said during Senate floor debate, according to Politico.
The changes, however, may not be enough for the White House. President Obama’s administration had previously released a statement saying that the president “strongly objects” to the mandatory military detention provision of the bill, despite the fact that it includes a waiver.
The bill is expected to pass through the House this week and it is not clear whether or not the president will make good on that veto threat.