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Senate Takes Up Issue of Guantanamo Detainee Rights, Pt. II

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

NPR's Ari Shapiro is still with us.

And, Ari, Senator Leahy just mentioned White House talking points. What is the White House, or where is the White House, in all of this?

ARI SHAPIRO reporting:

They've been pretty quiet, in part that might be because the Supreme Court took away some of the White House's power in its decisions. The power is really now in the hands of Congress. And undoubtedly, the White House is still working with its ally behind the scene. But publicly, they haven't been doing a lot of overt campaigning on the issue, really.

MONTAGNE: And how much will politics figure into this debate at this point?

SHAPIRO: Well, this is Washington. So, of course, politics will figure into this debate quite a bit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SHAPIRO: The November elections are just four months away, and everyone sees this as an opportunity to make political hay. You know, some conservative Dema - sorry, conservative Republicans see this as an opportunity to paint the Democrats as being soft on terrorism. There's a faction of moderate Republicans who see this as a leadership opportunity. They think they can be the consensus builders and establish a clear way forward here.

And then, among the Democrats, as we just heard from Senator Leahy, this seems to be a real opportunity to hit back at the administration for what the Democrats see as five years of a failed system in Guantanamo Bay, and in the war on terror, more generally.

MONTAGNE: And besides Senator Leahy, who will be the leaders in this debate?

SHAPIRO: Those moderate Republicans are really going to be a very strong force. They include Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina; he was a military lawyer himself before he got into politics. There's Senator John McCain, of Arizona, who, of course, authored the amendment banning cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees. And then the chairs of the Armed Services and Senate Judiciary Committees - that's John Warner, of Virginia, and Arlen Specter, of Pennsylvania, - will all be strong leaders really taking the lead anyway on this issue.

MONTAGNE: And looking ahead, how soon might we see something actually happen?

SHAPIRO: Well, might not be for a little while yet. Senate majority leader Bill Frist said he doesn't actually expect to see a vote on this issue until after the Congress comes back from its August recess. So even though there's really a flurry of activity this week with these three Congressional hearings, there may be a bit of lull then before this finally reaches a resolution.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Ari Shapiro, thanks very much.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: You are listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.