Congress Again Takes the Low Road

You want Congressional gridlock? You got it. Republican senators yesterday were willing and able to block two bipartisan measures that would have meaningfully altered our military commitment in Iraq and our legal response to the war on terrorism. This is how it's going to be for the next 16 months, until a new President is sworn in and the balance on Capitol Hill is recalculated again.

I'll leave it to the military experts to talk about the GOP's rejection of a proposal that would have allowed military personnel to take longer leaves from war zones. And I'll focus instead on the Republican filibuster that killed a measure that would have restored the right of terrorism suspects to use the federal courts to challenge their confinement. The demise of the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007 is further proof that too many legislators are still self-defeatingly loyal to an administration that has consistently overreached in conceiving and implementing new terror law policies.

The Supreme Court this coming term will review the administration's policies toward detainee rights-- for the third time. But, until that review, hundreds of men at Guantanamo Bay will continue to be held without trial. Despite the fact that many of them, by our military's own reckoning, never fired a shot at U.S. troops or otherwise supported Al Qaeda. Before these men get some sort of trial-- and some sort of appellate review-- they may already have spent nearly a decade in captivity.

Some Republicans Wednesday said that they voted against the detainee-rights measure because it would have opened up the floodgates to litigation-- as if the detainees all were represented by class-action attorneys looking to make a killing through contingency-fee cases. The "litigation" that might follow habeas restoration, however, would be far more basic. The men at Gitmo, and others, want someone other than their captors to determine whether they ought to remain detained. A reasonable enough proposition, right?

Still others, according to a piece in today's New York Times: "said Congress should await the Supreme Court review of the rights of detainees to assess whether the court agrees with the new law or overturns it. 'The court will say that the right exists, and nothing we do is going to affect that,' said Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona. 'But if the court confirms that we are right, then it would be not only unnecessary but wrong for us to change the law.' " This is precisely the sort of cowardly dodge-- we aren't going to fix the problem unless the court makes us-- that is stalling moves to fairly prosecute the detainees and close Gitmo once and for all.

Here's what Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), one of the co-sponsors of the habeas measure, had to say following its defeat: "We have brought this to the Senate Floor not because it is politically easy or popular, but because it is the right thing to do. This has been a debate that has invoked constitutional principles, legal precepts, Latin phrases, and historical precedents. This is an issue that lends itself to politically provocative distortions. Constitutional principles need our defense not so much when it is popular to do so, as when it may not be popular or easy to do.
It is difficult to defend the higher ground by taking the lower road. The world knows what our enemies stand for. The world also knows what this country has tried to stand for and live up to-- in the best of times, and the worst of times."

By Andrew Cohen |  September 20, 2007; 7:27 AM ET
Previous: Update: Republicans Say No to Habeas Return | Next: Hey, Justices: Stop Talking, Start Working


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John Adams, come home... the United States of America requires your presence in The Senate.
Ooops... John is no longer in France, or Holland, or Great Britain... but his principles and ideas are not! Would that our lawmakers read his words, and take up the burden of good government and righteous works!

Posted by: ka_albion | September 20, 2007 08:39 AM

A number of people have pointed out - and I wholeheartedly concur - that it's high time the Democrats forced Republicans to, in effect, put their mouths where their money is vis-a-vis this "filibuster" thing. Let them actually have their filibuster; let them hold up the Senate's work (probably not a bad idea in and of itself) while they speak for hour upon hour in defense of gutting the Constitution. Why give them a free pass when their goal is to thwart legislation the Democrats support? Can you say "enabler?"

Posted by: Howard Kindel | September 20, 2007 09:43 AM

Just remember that if the Fascist's can put a yoke on your neighbor or others, it will not be too long before they put that yoke on you.

Posted by: ghostcommander | September 20, 2007 12:41 PM

I have been trying to figure out why the GOP would want to establish all of these extreme precedents when, by all appearances, they are going to become a super-minority in Congress and lose the White House. Do they really want Hillary wire-tapping their calls, etc.?

Do they expect to declare martial law just before the next elections or has Dr. Dobson gotten word out that the rapture is scheduled for next year?

Posted by: Clay | September 20, 2007 02:01 PM

It would not surprise me one bit to see the criminal in chief declare martial law after provoking a military response from Iran.

Posted by: Harry | September 20, 2007 02:43 PM

If the GOP wants a filibuster in order to prevent Guantanamo Bay detainees from having a fair trial then let them explain the principles upon which their opposition is based.

It seems to me that they there is a presumption that they know who is guilty and who does not deserve to have a trial.

Their position has all of the indecency of a vigilante mob that catches someone, hangs him and then says the presumption that he was guilty was so overwhelming that a trial was unnecessary.

Have you ever noticed a supporter of Guantanamo Bay giving up their trial rights? No you haven't.

The idea that the law is applied consistently has been abandoned. It is another nail in the coffin of Decency.

The President is little more than a nutter living in a world of delusions. His claims that he knows who is guilty and dangerous does not ring true.

If they are guilty and dangerous then Bush should tell us in detail what the offence is and then show us, in a trial, how easily he will establish their guilt.

I thnk that George doesn't have the evidence and that a trial would expose his lie.

Posted by: Robert James | September 20, 2007 04:43 PM

If you burn, must be guilty; if not, maybe you're innocent. (no I don't believe that, but it's typical that someone might well put forth such a doctrine)

Posted by: | September 21, 2007 11:24 AM

meaning typical of the state of things today that someone could conceivably be believed as holding such an opinion

Posted by: | September 21, 2007 12:30 PM

What a difference the party in power in congress makes to liberals and Democrats!!!

The same party that has obstructed everything and anything President Bush and the then Republican-controlled tried to do and was for from 1994 to 2006, was DOA (dead on arrival) to liberals and Democrats. They even voted against the $87 billion that President Bush and the then Republican-controlled congress wanted for our military guys in harms way in Iraq and Afghanistan, which included body-armor for our troops and more armor for personel carriers, jeeps and other vehicles. Now though the same liberal Democrats and their pimps in the MSM like Andrew Cohen et al are whining about Republican-obstructionism. Have you no shame? Jews have a word for this, chutzpa!

Posted by: mojoe | September 22, 2007 12:11 PM

Mojoe makes a lot of sense. Yeah right, what other than that Democrats voted against a war bill did you just mean to say. That Democrats have been preventing everything the administration has tried to do? Looks to me that the opposite is much closer to the truth.

Posted by: C-man | September 24, 2007 12:05 PM

I believe that reading some of these comments tells me either how 'ignorant' people are, or how 'naive' they seem to be.
WE ARE AT WAR PEOPLE; and, do you want to know something? Bush did not get us into Iraq anymore than a good share of the 'dems' who are wanting to pull out now did. Read; check this out, and you will find it is true.
Also, the only reason the 'dems' want us to pull out is that they do not want to worry about losing the next election.
I vote for the 'candidate' and whomever I think is capable of handling the world situation and the economy gets my vote.
Read your history and read about Al Quaeda and make some intelligent decisions.
P.S. I would much rather have conversations and email 'checked' than go through what some of those people went through on 9-11.

Posted by: redh3 | September 26, 2007 09:09 PM

Again and again, the same inane false dichotomies

Posted by: | September 27, 2007 12:24 PM

despite the validity of what is said about many democrat's compliance and opportunism

Posted by: | September 27, 2007 12:25 PM

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