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Senate Judiciary Committee Votes to Restore Habeas Corpus Due Process Rights

Prisoners at Guantanamo
Prisoners at Guantanamo
Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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June 7, 2007

And this is actually “breaking news,” not CNN-style “breaking news,” where the story broke a week ago. The Senate Judiciary Committee just voted for the Specter/Leahy habeas restoration bill. The committee sent it to the floor with no amendments, no debate and on almost a party line vote (with the GOP sponsor, Senator Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania voting in favor).Kudos to all the Democratic senators who showed up and waited for a quorum (critical mass for a vote); Senator Feinstein came in just under the buzzer.Senators voting aye: Leahy (D-Vt.), Specter (R-Pa.), Kennedy (D-Ma.), Biden (D-Del.), Kohl (D-Wis.), Feinstein (D-Cal.), Feingold (D-Wis.), Schumer (D-N.Y.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Cardin (D-Md.), Whitehouse (D-R.I.).Senators voting nay: all the other Republicans (Hatch, Grassley, Kyl, Sessions, Graham, Cornyn, Brownback, Coburn).Though far from the comprehensive legislation needed to either close Gitmo and transfer the detainees into secure proceedings in civilian courts, or provide the detainees with a full and fair opportunity to challenge the grounds for their detentions, S. 185 is a crucial piece of lawmaking.It signals to the White House and the Republican minority in Congress that this is a real issue, and that the quick and dirty passage of the MCA in the final days of the GOP-controlled 109th Congress was ill-advised and somewhat ham-handed.It also shows support for habeas—and due process—among both grass and netroots, and among the opinion elite in Washington. Senator Specter, though fair on a lot of civil liberties issues, is no hand-wringer. He’s also known as a lawyer’s lawyer in a Congress full of lawyers.That he would sponsor a bill—a bill that will now go to the full Senate—providing the Gitmo detainees with a clear right to petition civilian courts here for review of their detention under a writ of habeas corpus says a heck of a lot about the state of debate on this issue.For the legal stuff, see here. For the ACLU’s press release, see here.More on this as I get it.