Supreme Court Ruling Provides an Opening for Republicans

Posted by Mike Franc, Vice President for Government Relations, The Heritage Foundation

Thanks to the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, we should expect numerous high-profile hearings in July and August exploring the sensitive security issues raised by terrorist detentions. By September, both chambers will likely devote considerable floor time to legislation that will bring suspected terrorists to justice.  Legislation is the likely route since the Court's decision addressed none of the potential constitutional issues involved. Indeed, nothing in the ruling calls into question the legitimacy of the camp at Guantanamo or the government's right to detain unlawful combatants. No suspected terrorists will be released as a result of the Court's ruling and the odds are that the lead plaintiff, Salim Hamdan, Osama Bin Laden's driver and bodyguard, will not be applying for an opening at your local limousine service anytime soon.  Thus, Congress will grapple with yet another high-profile security issue just in time for the 2006 elections. Americans are hawkish when it comes to our dealings with terrorists. Many are even willing to sacrifice some of their civil liberties in order to prevail in this war.

The need to address Hamdan offers Republicans another opening on a national security issue. Most will oppose any attempt to treat unlawful combatants seized on the battlefields of transnational terrorism as regular criminals or traditional prisoners of war. Democrats may argue for equal treatment, as Nancy Pelosi did. "All," she said, presumably referring to Hamdan and his colleagues, "are entitled to the basic guarantees of our justice system."

More in Court Battles

Redskins ask Supreme Court to review trademark case

Read more »