Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is holding up consideration of the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill over an amendment he plans to offer that would require a jury trial for Americans detained in terrorism investigations.
A Paul spokeswoman said the senator wants “an agreement in principle to get a vote” on the amendment, which would likely produce some fireworks on the floor.
Paul’s demand for a vote comes as Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Arizona Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the panel, are working behind the scenes to limit debate on the sprawling policy measure (S 3254) to ensure it receives floor time during the lame-duck session.
On Thursday, Levin said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had given him and McCain control of the length of time needed for the bill. Their goal, he added, is to get it on and off the floor in three days.
But, in order to do so, the two lawmakers must try to steer clear of amendments that could take up significant floor time and potentially jeopardize passage of the bill.
“Sen. Paul has some demands, as usual,” McCain said. “He wants a vote and other things, and we’re trying to accommodate everybody.”
Reid went to the Senate floor Thursday afternoon to say that he is ready to move to the defense bill, but that there was an objection on the Republican side. He said he would try again after the Thanksgiving recess, but had no plans to file for cloture.
Paul said on Wednesday that he opposes indefinite detention and believes that habeas corpus rights are the beginning of due process, not an end.
“So many in my caucus believe habeas is due process,” he said.
If Paul objects to bringing up the defense bill, Reid would have to file cloture on the motion to proceed to the measure, a time-consuming procedural hurdle that could serve as a deterrent to calling up the bill.
The Armed Services Committee had hoped the Senate could complete work on the defense bill, which is next in line after the sportsman’s bill (S 3525), the week after Thanksgiving. That would allow plenty of time to negotiate differences with the House, which passed its version of the measure (HR 4310) in May.