Interrogation Update: Republicans Wrangle, Dems Observe

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Sep 21, 2006 8:16 AM

Countdown to Productivity: 8 Days Until the Session Ends

Dana Milbank covers the tug-of-war over the interrogation bill in the House judiciary commitee yesterday-- a war Republicans won, just barely, thanks to quite a bit of maneuvering on Sensenbrenner's part.

Milbank's a little snarky, calling Sensenbrenner "red-faced and jowly," which I thought was a little much, but the story's interesting:

But Feeney was just warming up. "There is not an American mom that is guaranteed eight hours of sleep every night. There are very few people in the business world . . . who are guaranteed eight hours of sleep." Further, he added: "There are suggestions that playing loud music is inhumane treatment. . . . The bottom line is, that means virtually every teenager I know is torturing mom and dad."

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) appealed for reason: "Although I'm sure parents do feel tortured by their teenagers, I don't think that's in the Constitution."

Nadler raised the ante. "Sleep deprivation [for] eight hours? How about 40 hours?" he asked. "How about waterboarding? How about holding people and subjecting them to hypothermia?"

"Absurd! Absurd!" heckled Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), who accused the Democrats of "hyperbole."

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) seconded the "absurd" accusation. "We are facing sleep deprivation here in this Congress at the shutdown of every single session," he cracked.

There's good news on the Rep. Heather Wilson eavesdropping bill, recently modified to the White House's liking:

The House Intelligence Committee approved by voice vote a bill that would put into law the administration's warrentless wiretapping program. The sponsor, Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., had rewritten the measure to make it more Bush's liking. The Judiciary Committee later endorsed a similar version, 20-16.

But Wilson's revision, likely to draw Bush's support, is the bill that probably will make it to the full House.

The concession on imminent attacks would come at a price for the president.

Under Wilson's revised bill, the president may only conduct the secret surveillance under specific conditions. For example, the president must notify Congress within five days of authorizing the surveillance, name the entity that poses the threat and state the reason for believing the attack is imminent.

Democrats are bowing out of this one and letting Republican infighting take its course, for the most part. A couple thoughts on that. Republicans do a lot of infighting, right? This is generally counterproductive, as far as passing legislation goes. But isn't it also illuminating that, on the major policy questions of the day, an entire political party can sit on the sidelines, and no one really notices?

We're discussing the War on Terror, the war in Iraq, and how best to protect American citizens through immigration laws and interrogation guidelines, and virtually the entire debate can be held without the Democrats showing up. Doesn't bode well the agenda of the would-be Democrat-controlled Congress.

On the Senate bill, the last news I've heard is the Frist filibuster threat from yesterday. The WaPo has this and nothing more:

Neither side in the Senate had the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster and move a detainee bill forward. Negotiators said a deal still was possible.

"Progress has been made," said Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Frist, who supports Bush's position, said he was "hopeful that very soon agreement can be reached."

So, while they're still wrangling, go read The American Thinker on the country's foremost "moral exhibitionist." Serious ouch:

If a team of geniuses sat down to design a man who should never be President of the United States they would come up with John McCain. Fortunately the character flaws that make him unfit for the Oval Office also put that office well beyond his reach. Sometimes the universe really does unfold as it should.

Howard Kurtz thinks the man from Arizona is standing on principle, but I have a lot of trouble buying sincerity from McCain these days. Also, can headline writers please stop using the achingly tired constructions, "torturous debate" and "tortured logic?" We can do better than that.

Meanwhile, down at Gitmo, the men whose treatment we are debating should get hearings within three months:

Army Brig. Gen. Edward A. Leacock, the deputy commander of Guantanamo, said the 14 new detainees are being treated humanely.

"They're all adapting well to their new environment," Leacock told reporters here, adding that they're fed three times a day, have recreational opportunities and have opportunities to pray five times per day.

They have been given materials to write letters, which after they are censored by the military will be given to the Red Cross for mailing, Leacock said. The Red Cross announced in Geneva Wednesday they will visit the 14 new detainees next week.

Waddingham told reporters visiting Guantanamo that preparations were being made for the Combatant Status Review Tribunal for Mohammed and the other 13 detainees.