This vote was on killing an amendment by Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., that would have prohibited the Justice Department from using any of its funding to prosecute in federal court anyone linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the departments of Commerce and Justice, and science programs such as NASA.
Graham said his amendment would have the effect of having any such trials heard under a military commission system, rather than through the regular judicial system.
“Our civilian court system serves us well, but we have had a long history of having military commission trials when the Nation is at war. The military commission bill which this Congress wrote is reformed. It is new, it is transparent, and it is something I am proud of,” Graham said. “Military commissions are designed to administer justice in a fair and transparent way, but they know and understand we are at war. Our civilian courts are not designed to deal with war criminals; the military system is.’
Jack Reed, D-R.I., said of 195 terrorists tried so far since Sept. 11, three have been tried in military commissions.
“I think we have recognized that our courts are durable enough to stand up to the issues of the culpability of these individuals and the magnitude of their actions. Secretary Gates and Attorney General Holder have asked for the option to use article III courts or military commissions. We are preserving that if we reject the Graham amendment,” Reed said. “They are criminals. They committed murder. The sooner we can convince the world that these aren’t holy warriors, that they are criminals, the sooner we will take an advantage in this battle of ideas between those people and the system of laws and justice that we represent and try to protect and defend.” Reed then moved to kill Graham’s amendment, which is what this vote was on.
By a vote of 54-45, Graham’s amendment was killed. All but four Democrats present voted to kill the amendment. Every Republican present voted against killing the amendment. The end result is that the bill went forward without language that would have prevented anyone linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks from being tried in the federal court system.