Sen. Paul joins Democrats in failed opposition to detainee provisions

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Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) were opposed to Udall’s amendment. More than 15 Democrats voted with Levin against the amendment, including many Armed Services members.

The White House has threatened to veto the Defense spending bill over the detainee provisions, which has sparked a fight between Levin and the administration.

Levin and McCain say their agreement on military detention of terror suspects grants a waiver to allow the administration to prosecute terror suspects in civilian courts if it wishes. But the White House has warned that the current legislation would tie the hands of law enforcement officials by placing burdensome restrictions on them.

Paul was most concerned about provisions that could allow Americans to be detained in military custody.

“Should we err today and remove some of the most important checks on state power in the name of fighting terrorism, well, then the terrorists have won," Paul said.

McCain defended the provision, arguing that the U.S. must eliminate all terror threats.

“The language in the Defense authorization bill regarding detainees preserves our nation’s ability to gain valuable intelligence from members of al Qaeda and gives the president the ability to prevent terrorists from returning to the battlefield,” McCain said in a statement after the vote.

Udall’s amendment would have removed the detainee language and called on the Armed Services, Intelligence and Judiciary committees to study the issue with the administration. Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) supported Udall’s amendment.

Levin hopes to have a cloture vote on the Defense bill Wednesday, and a final vote before the end of the week.