House Passes Republican Amendment Backing Indefinite Detention For Terror Suspects On U.S. Soil

Protesters in Minneapolis oppose the current NDAA

The House of Representatives this morning took a hard line against efforts by Democrats and libertarian Republicans to limit the president’s power to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects captured in the U.S.

An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by Reps. Adam Smith (D-WA) and Justin Amash (R-MI) would have barred military detention of terrorism suspects arrested in the U.S. regardless of their nationality. Smith outlined the argument for his amendment last night:

What we’ve learned in the last 10 years is one power [the president] does not need the power to indefinitely detain or place in military custody people in the United States. Our justice system works.

But House Republicans hit back hard at the bipartisan amendment, attacking it as providing additional rights to foreign terrorists. This morning, the House defeated the Smith-Amash amendment in favor of a competing amendment sponsored by Reps. Jeff Landry (R-LA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Scott Rigell (R-VA). Their amendment, which passed this morning, prohibits the government from denying U.S. citizens their constitutional rights.

Amash slammed the all-Republican sponsored amendment as doing nothing but providing political cover for House Republicans who disingenuously claim to care about civil liberties, telling his House colleagues last night:

The first part of the amendment does nothing. In other words, if you have constitutional rights, then you have constitutional rights.

While the battle in Congress over the detention provisions in the NDAA may have come to an end with the defeat of the Smith-Nash amendment and the passage of the competing Republican amendment, legal and political challenges may await the NDAA in the very near future.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in New York issued a temporary injunction, finding that the detainee provisions in the current NDAA are unconstitutional.

And the White House, in a statement [PDF] released on Tuesday evening, listed a series of objections with the pending NDAA including: restrictions on the implementation of the New START treaty; limits on reductions for the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal; and new restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees. Moreover, the White House objected to the overall size of the bill, which surpasses President Obama’s request by $3.7 billion and exceeds the Budget Control Act spending caps by $8 billion, and threatened to veto the NDAA if sent to the President in its current form.