McCain pushes for detainee amendment

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is threatening to attach an amendment to the defense appropriations bill defining acceptable treatment of military detainees if the defense authorization bill, to which it is currently attached, is not voted on this fall.

“I hate to do this,” said McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland Subcommittee.

When Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) shelved the defense authorization bill before the August recess, the treatment of detainees was one of two contentious issues. The other was a delay of the base realignment and closure (BRAC) process.

The president opposed amendments on both issues and said he would veto the bill unless they were stripped from it.

The dispute between the White House and McCain is their first high-profile disagreement since the November election.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, remains “very supportive” of McCain’s amendment, according to a committee spokesperson. And Warner also is committed to bringing the authorization bill to the floor this fall.

Warner told reporters yesterday that he and Frist are discussing bringing the bill back up after the president makes his recommendations on the BRAC list. The Base Closure and Realignment Commission submitted its recommendations to Bush last week. He has until Sept. 23 to decide whether to approve the list or change it.

Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has said that the defense appropriations bill will be considered after the defense authorization is voted on.

Sen. Thad Cochran( R-Miss.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said yesterday that appropriators are going to try to get the defense bill done the first week of October. The fiscal year 2006 starts Oct. 1.

Roxana Tiron and Jonathan Allen