McCain: Anybody Else Want to Negotiate?

Sounds like we won’t be getting that first-ever Bush veto just yet. From the LA Times’ Janet Hook: White House seeks deal on torture ban.

A White House spokesman said Saturday that national security advisor Stephen Hadley had met three times over the last month — most recently Thursday night — with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chief sponsor of an amendment setting new restrictions on U.S. treatment of war prisoners.

A McCain aide confirmed that the subject of those talks was the anti-torture amendment, which passed the Senate by a landslide despite heavy opposition from the White House and personal lobbying by Vice President Dick Cheney.

“They [administration officials] have assured me this will get worked out,” said a senior Senate Republican aide who, like others, did not want to be identified because the matter was still being negotiated in private. “It passed the Senate 90-9, and everyone agrees that if it came to a vote in the House, it would pass overwhelmingly. The trend lines are all in the Senate direction.”

If the White House capitulates or makes major concessions to McCain, it would be a significant retreat for an administration that argued vehemently that the measure would limit the president’s flexibility in fighting terrorism.


The recent meetings between McCain and Hadley were first reported Saturday by the Wall Street Journal. Frederick Jones, spokesman for the National Security Council, confirmed that Thursday night’s discussion was the third one-on-one meeting between the two men. Jones would not confirm the topic of the meetings, but he did point to recent statements about the amendment by Hadley that struck a conciliatory note.

“We’re working with Sen. McCain to reach accommodation in Congress,” Jones said.

The torture ban is just one of several issues in Congress on which Republicans are showing more independence from the White House than they typically did during Bush’s first term. But Eric Ueland, chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), denied that any concession by Bush on the torture ban was a sign of second-term weakness.

“It has nothing to do with broader events,” Ueland said. “There is a serious and sharp difference of opinion about the best way to proceed in this area. The administration holds one view and Congress holds a different one.”

Well, yes. And the administration’s view in this case is idiotic, immoral, and unconscionable.

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