why hold terrorists in a maximum security prison?


Here’s an interesting look into senate procedure and national security.

The story so far: the two senators from Kansas, Brownback and Roberts, have placed a “hold” on the nomination of John McHugh, who Obama wants to be secretary of the army. The reason for the hold? Basically, they don’t like the administration’s plans to move detainees currently in Guantanamo, toLeavenworth maximum security prison in Kansas. Even though Leavenworth is the DOD’s only max security prison, Roberts claims that it would be a mistake to send Guantanamo detainees there:

This notion of housing terrorists in Fort Leavenworth is, in my opinion, absurd.

Absurd? Really? I mean, some democratic senators are also against using Leavenworth to hold Guantanamo detainees, and so I’m open to the possibility that Leavenworth isn’t optimal for reasons I have yet to read about, but absurd? C’mon.

But what’s also interesting is the way that holds work. They are actually kind of complex and are not actually in the senate rules. A hold is basically notification to the leadership of one’s party to delay a vote, including nomination votes.

However, it’s also interesting to note that the senate majority leader must also go along with a hold. So, Harry Reid, is also partially responsible for this hold. This is something that completely escapes some indignant liberals. (see this post and its comments for an example of some liberal fulmination). Don’t get me wrong, I suspect that Brownback and Roberts are in the wrong here, but it’s a complex issue. Leavenworth may not be the best place to hold detainees and the hold they have placed on McHugh’s nomination is a common tactic used by both parties. Also, it’s not really that restricting. If Obama wanted to move ahead with Leavenworth he could just get a new nominee. I haven’t read anything about McHugh that makes me think we must have him as the secretary of army.

In any case, as always, the congressional research service has a great paper on holds and how they work. That’s here.

Also, another moral of this story is one in keeping with a theme frequently blogged about by Matthew Yglesias at his blog, which is that the senate really can’t get anything done.


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