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Senate Fails on Habeas Corpus

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Today the U.S. Senate fell four votes short of restoring Habeas Corpus, the fundamental constitutional right of individuals to challenge government detention, which the Republican Congress revoked in last year's Military Commissions Act. Fifty-six senators supported a procedural move to tie the Habeas provision to legislation authorizing defense spending -- a step that requires sixty votes.

The amendment was sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, Senator Arlen Specter, who voted for the legislation that the amendment attempts to reverse, and Senator Chris Dodd, who blasted today's vote. "Each of us in the Senate faced a decision either to cast a vote in favor of helping to restore America's reputation in the world, or to help dig deeper the hole of utter disrespect for the rule of law that the Bush Administration has created. Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues chose the latter," he said.

Backers of the amendment and human rights organizers say they will continue to press for habeas restoration. Leah Adler, an organizer with Working Assets, wrote today that activists should focus on the U.S. House, which will "likely consider legislation to restore habeas corpus in the next few weeks."

Today's vote also suggests a new Senate majority for Habeas Corpus. (Last Congress, a similar amendment did not even break 50 votes.) And yes, it is a sad sign that we are reduced to counting votes for which members of Congress are upholding their oath to support the Constitution.