Thanks to GOP, House Votes Down NDAA Amendment Prohibiting Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens

This morning, the House voted down the Smith-Amash amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would have prohibited the government from indefinitely detaining U.S. citizens without trial.  A vote of 182-237 struck down the bipartisan Amendment that Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.) introduced. Only 19 Republicans, compared to 163 Democrats, supported the bill. 

While Obama has pledged not to use his power to enforce indefinite detention in the United States, the legislation still paves the way for future Presidents to do  exactly that. Rep. Smith explained the importance of his legislation:

This is an extraordinary amount of power to give the president – to give the government the power to take away people’s rights and to lock them up without so much as a court hearing.

What we’ve learned in the last 10 years is one power [the president] does not need the power to indefinitely detain or place in military custody people in the United States. Our justice system works.

“Congress today rejected a chance to start to clean up the mess that it made last year with the NDAA indefinite detention provisions,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel, “No president should ever have the power to order the military to imprison civilians located far from any battlefield. By rejecting this amendment, the House of Representatives failed in their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.”

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum reports that House Republicans “brought out their long knives” to press that forbidding indefinite US detention on U.S. soil would “coddle terrorists.” Drum explained

Republicans opposed to the Smith-Amash amendment proposed a hoax fix that "reaffirms" Americans' right to habeas corpus. Only the right to habeas was never in question, so their proposal doesn't actually do anything. It is a complete non-sequitur, a bad-faith attempt to prevent Smith and Amash from closing a gaping "terrorism exception" to Americans' due process rights. That amendment passed by almost the same overwhelming margin that the Smith-Amash amendment failed, by a vote of 243-173.

Smith and Amash attacked the competing amendment, sponsored by Jeff Landry (R-La.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), and Scott Rigell (R-Va.).  “The first part of the amendment does nothing,” said Amash, “In other words, if you have constitutional rights, then you have constitutional rights.”

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne and Angela Lee

Posted at May 18, 2012, 8:48am

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