Congress to revisit the MCA

CONGRESS TO REVISIT THE MCA…. When the Military Commissions Act, which among other things suspended habeas corpus for detainees in U.S. custody, went to the Senate floor in September, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) noted, “Surely as we are standing here, if this bill is passed and habeas corpus is stricken, we’ll be back on this floor again” after the courts reject the legislation.

We may not have to wait that long. Earlier this month, we saw the first inkling that the MCA might be revisited in 2007, but it now appears almost certain that the law will be re-examined by the new Democratic Senate.

Senate Democrats plan to revisit one of the most contentious matters of 2006: deciding what legal rights must be protected for detainees held in the war on terrorism.

In September, Congress passed a bill that gave President Bush wide latitude in interrogating and detaining captured combatants. The legislation prompted more than three months of debate — exposing Republican fissures and prompting angry rebukes by Democrats of the administration’s interrogation policies.

A group of Senate Democrats and one Republican, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, want to resurrect the bill to fix a provision they say threatens the nation’s credibility on human rights issues.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office said this week that Reid “would support attempts to revisit some of the most extreme elements of the bill” including language stripping detainees of habeas corpus rights.

Good. I don’t doubt the White House will issue all manner of veto threats, but I’d like to see just how many lawmakers are willing to undo what they did.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.