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Congress Readies to Give President More Power


Some of the options now may belong to Congress. In response to yesterday's ruling, lawmakers are preparing for hearings and possible legislation. Here's NPR's Brian Naylor.

BRIAN NAYLOR reporting:

Reaction to the Court's ruling was swift and along party lines. Democrats saw the decision as a clear rebuke to the president's conduct of the war on terror. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid:

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): The aura of power that the president thinks he has does not exist. We want to do things the right way, the Constitutional way, the American way.

NAYLOR: Republicans came to the defense of Mr. Bush. House Republican leader John Boehner said the president is motivated to protect the American people from attacks at home and abroad. Other Republicans insisted the Guantanamo prison should remain open. In the words of Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, so long as it is in the national security interests of the United States.

But Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California said it's time for the administration to close the prison. She said prisoners could be returned to their home countries, or brought to justice in the United States.

There was a consensus among members of both parties that Congress is going to have to weigh in to establish a procedure for trying the Guantanamo detainees. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he would introduce a bill authorizing military commissions to hold trials. A lack of such authorization was cited in the Court's ruling.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, agreed Congress needs to act:

Senator LINDSEY GRAHAM (Republican, South Carolina): It requires congressional approval according to the Court, and I agree with that, and I look forward to writing a statute that the nation could be proud of to allow military - enemy combatants to be tried in a military forum.

NAYLOR: Graham, who is a reserve judge advocate, said legislation needs to be based on the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Virginia Republican John Warner, says his panel will convene hearings when Congress returns from the July 4th recess. Warner chatted with reporters outside the Senate chamber.

Senator JOHN WARNER (Republican, Virginia; Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee): Among the witnesses at the first hearing would be a panel of sitting of judge advocates and retired and - that were trying to determine if, in fact, legislation is necessary to work through and comply with the Supreme Court.

NAYLOR: Warner was not specific about what legislation might be called for, and while Senate Majority Leader Frist has designated the Armed Services Committee to take the lead on the issue, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter intends to be involved as well. He introduced a measure yesterday that would establish military commissions and field tribunals to try suspected enemy combatants.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.

INSKEEP: You can read the Supreme Court's ruling, reactions to it, and an analysis of how it leads the fate of detainees in doubt, by going to our website, npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

United States & World Morning Edition
NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.