House judiciary panel pulls off victory on military tribunal bill

On the verge of a major political defeat, House Judiciary Committee Republicans scrambled to find missing panel members in order to successfully send a White House-backed military-tribunals bill to the floor.

When two Republicans, Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Bob Inglis (S.C.), cast their votes against the bill — siding with a Senate-crafted bill at odds with the Bush administration — Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) resorted to a procedural move.

Gohmert voted against the bill, allowing members time to track down House International Relations Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), two panel members who weren’t present for the vote.

By voting against the bill, Gohmert reserved the right to call it for a second vote, according to House rules.

With Hyde and Gallegly voting in favor of the bill, the committee was able to get the vote to 20-19 in favor of the legislation.

At press time, the markup was still ongoing, and further information was not available.

Underscoring the House leadership’s commitment to backing the administration’s position, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) issued a statement praising the Judiciary Committee vote.

“I’m pleased to see the Judiciary Committee take positive action on the Military Commissions Act today,” the statement said. “By authorizing terrorist tribunals to fully and fairly prosecute terrorists, this bill provides the President with crucial tools for waging and winning the Global War on Terror.”

The bill is slated to come to the House floor next week. At that time, Flake could attempt to resubmit an amendment he offered during yesterday’s markup that would bring the House measure in line with the proposal backed by four GOP senators.