Dems Switch On Detainees

After strongly supporting amendments by Republicans earlier this year that argued against moving detainees out of Guantanamo Bay, Democrats switched sides yesterday as the Senate rejected the first effort to undermine plans for 9/11 terror trials in New York City.

The vote was 57-43 against a GOP plan from Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who noted similar plans had been approved several times in 2009, all with over 90 yes votes.

Instead, Democrats stuck with the White House, and voted down a plan that would have barred the feds from spending money to build or upgrade existing defense facilities in order to house terrorism detainees now at the Guantanamo Bay terror prison.

"I do not believe they belong in our country, I do not believe they belong in our courts," was one quote from the debate about detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Nine Eleven attacks.

That quote though came from someone who voted against the Inhofe Amendment, as Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) was one of many Democrats who sided with his party leadership on the issue, despite his clear opposition to civilian trials for KSM and others.

"I recognize that the President retains the authority to bring charges against these individuals," in civilian courts, Webb said on the Senate floor.

Back on May 20, 2009, Webb had been part of a 90-6 vote in favor of an amendment from Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) that would have blocked "funding to transfer, release, or incarcerate detainees detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to or within the United States."

You can see that vote at

While Republicans lost that first round, the more interesting votes will be on direct challenges to the policy, such as barring money to transfer detainees and blocking funds to carry out the civilian trials.

All 40 Republicans voted for the plan on Tuesday, joined by three interesting Senators - Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and both Democratic Senators from Arkansas, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln.

All three of them could be pivotal votes on health care reform as well.

The issue of Guantanamo detainees will get a full airing today before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as Attorney General Eric Holder will be before that panel for a regular oversight hearing, where the 9/11 trials are certainly going to be an issue.

Democrats won the first skirmish on this issue - we'll see if that changes in the weeks ahead.

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