Washington: The US Senate on Thursday easily advanced an annual spending bill that includes tough new rules requiring military detention of terrorism suspects, which have drawn a White House veto threat.
Lawmakers voted 88-12 to push the USD 662 billion legislation over a procedural hurdle and seemed on track to approve the measure by week's end after debates on amendments, including some aimed at diluting the detainee provisions.
The vote came a day after senators beat back an attempt to strip the detainee rules -- despite warnings from the FBI, the Pentagon, and the US Director of National Intelligence that they risk crippling counter-terrorism efforts.
The controversial measures affirm Obama's right to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely, including US citizens, and calls for al-Qaeda fighters who plot or carry out attacks on US targets to be held in military, not civilian, custody.
But they allow Obama to decide whether a detainee fits that definition, and permit the government to hold suspected al-Qaeda fighters in civilian custody after formally declaring that to be in the US national security interest.
Critics have also expressed worries that tough new standards for transferring detainees to other countries -- notably a requirement that top US officials formally declare them no longer a threat -- could hamper the US exit from Afghanistan, where US forces hold thousands of prisoners.
The proposed rules explicitly say that the military detention requirement does not apply to US citizens, but supporters of the legislation stressed that American Al-Qaeda members may be held indefinitely without trial.
"The Supreme Court has recently ruled the following, that there is no bar to this nation's holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant. This is the Supreme Court speaking," Democratic Senator Carl Levin said on Wednesday.
Levin, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the proposed rules would not short-circuit the administration's use of civilian trials for suspected terrorists and denied they would cripple civil liberties.