By The Hill Editors - 11/29/11 12:39 AM EST
It is rare for Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and President Obama to be publicly at odds on anything.
But on language about detainees in Levin’s defense authorization bill, they disagree sharply.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), ranking member on the panel, who was defeated by Obama in the 2008 presidential race, accused the administration of playing politics with its veto threat.
Levin and McCain are not backing down. On Monday, they penned an op-ed in The Washington Post defending their measure and noting that it was unanimously approved by the Armed Services Committee.
The bill stipulates that al Qaeda terror suspects should be taken into military custody, though it provides a waiver for the executive branch to move suspects under the jurisdiction of federal law enforcement officials.
There are powerful congressional critics of the Levin-McCain provisions, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
This is all a headache for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who wanted the bill approved before Thanksgiving.
Still, the Senate is scheduled to bring the legislation forward this week. How Levin handles this delicate issue will be revealing. He wants his language in the law but does not want to provide political ammunition to Republicans running to oust Obama from the White House in next year’s election.
Asked by The Hill if he was given advance warning by the White House before the veto threat, Levin didn’t answer directly, saying he assumed the administration would threaten a veto.
In many ways, the fight over the detainee language is the latest in the never-ending battle between the executive and legislative branches. And both sides are refusing to blink.