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Senate GOP negotiating with White House on military commissions bill

[JURIST] Senate Republican leaders plan to negotiate with the White House through the weekend to resolve different versions of a bill that would legislatively authorize the establishment of military commissions [JURIST news archive] for suspected terrorists. Saturday's New York Times quotes Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-VA) [official website] as saying that most provisions of the White House-sponsored Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text; JURIST report] submitted to Congress on Wednesday match a similar bill [PDF text] he and other senators have drafted. The legislation is intended to address flaws in the presidentially-authorized military commission structure struck down by the US Supreme Court [official website] in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [text, JURIST report] this past June.

Key differences in the two versions relate to the possibility of trying defendants in absentia and the type of evidence permitted. The White House proposal anticipates the presence of a military judge, a five-person jury, and allowance of evidence obtained by coercion if it were judged relevant. Warner expressed his hope that the improved tribunals would "pass federal court muster," and although he expects the bill to be ready for a vote next week, it is unclear whether it will reach the Senate floor if no agreement is reached with the White House. House Republicans have indicated they will vote to pass the White House bill as it stands. The New York Times has more.

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