We expect Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tenn., to offer the White House legislation on military commissions later today on the Senate floor. But what happens from there is unclear. Some key Senate Republicans don't endorse some portions of the administration's approach.
The Senate Armed Services Committee, headed by John Warner, R-Va., has been working on its own version of a bill on military commissions. Warner and fellow committee Republicans Sens. John McCain, Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, S.C., along with the committee Democrats, have been at odds with the administration on the best way to move forward from the beginning. In overly simplistic terms, a majority of the committee seeks more protections and rights for detainees during trials. The administration seeks more restrictions for detainees and leans more toward the process that was in place before the Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional.
According to people familiar with the ongoing talks, the differences center around some of these points:
-- the definition of coercion and whether information obtained through coercion could be used in trial
-- whether a detainee or his lawyers can have access to classified information
-- whether hearsay evidence is admissible
-- and if convicted, do the appeals go to a military court or the D.C. Circuit Court?
The Senate version of the bill is a work in progress. But the people to watch in the next couple of weeks are Frist (who will determine which bill will make its way to the floor for debate and amending); and Warner, McCain and Graham. They stood toe-to-toe with Vice President Dick Cheney last year and won a battle that got the administration to embrace the detainee treatment act.