New Pentagon bill cuts $21 billion in spending, irons out detainee language

A senior Senate aide said committee leaders expect the new bill could be taken up by the upper chamber later this week.

“As requested by the administration, the new bill would clarify that the section providing detention authority does not expand the existing authority to detain under the [2002] Authorization for Use of Military Force Force and make Guantanamo-related restrictions one-year requirements instead of permanent restrictions,” the committee said in a statement.

The new version also would alter a provision in the first bill by “requiring military custody of al Qaeda members who attack the United States,” though it would come with a waiver, the panel said.

“As modified, the provision makes it clear that these determinations will not interfere with any ongoing law enforcement operations or interrogations.  Under the modified provision, the executive branch has the flexibility to keep a covered detainee in civilian custody pursuant to a national security determination, or to transfer a military detainee for trial in the civilian courts,” the committee stated.

Administration officials and many liberals on Capitol Hill argue that any new detainee provisions should allow some terrorism suspects to be transferred to U.S. soil and injected into the federal court system, which would enable them to testify in trials against other terrorism suspects.

Many congressional Republicans, however, support blocking the transfer of terrorism suspects from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility to the United States to be tried in the federal court system.