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GOP senators push for detainee policies

Liz Sidoti Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans pushed ahead Monday with legislation that would set rules for the treatment and interrogation of terrorism suspects in U.S. custody, despite a White House veto threat.

The Bush administration, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, is working to kill the amendments that GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina want to tack onto a bill setting Defense Department policy for next year.

McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, and Graham, who spent 20 years as an Air Force lawyer, introduced the legislation Monday. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., has endorsed the effort.

“What we’re trying to do here is make sure there are clear and exact standards set for interrogation of prisoners,” McCain said on the Senate floor.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., shot back, “I reject the idea that this Defense Department and our Army and our military is out of control, is confused about what their powers and duties and responsibilities are.”

Republicans said the measures were not toned down even though White House lobbying against them intensified late last week.

Cheney met with the three Republican lawmakers just off the Senate floor for about 30 minutes Thursday evening to object to detainee legislation. McCain said the meeting was the second in as many weeks between Cheney and top Armed Services members over administration concerns about the defense bill.

The administration said in a statement last week that President Bush’s advisers would recommend a veto of the overall bill if amendments were added that restricted the president’s ability to conduct the war on terrorism and protect Americans.

“They don’t think congressional involvement is necessary,” McCain said in an interview.

Senate aides estimate that nearly a dozen Republicans could be on board – which would be more than enough for the amendments to pass if Democrats support them as well.

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