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Taking advantage of a second chance

Tim Johnson’s return to the U.S. Senate gave him a chance to perhaps undo what I consider one of his worst votes. He took advantage of that chance, at least on the surface.

In 2006, Johnson voted for the Military Commissions Act (and Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin was one of only 32 House Democrats to vote for the legislation). One of the provisions of the act eliminated federal court jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus applications filed by aliens detained as by the United States as enemy combatants. I questioned Johnson directly about that vote shortly after it was taken.

Today, the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee respectively, was subject to a cloture vote on the Senate floor as an amendment to the defense appropriations bill. The act would repeal the provisions of the Military Commissions Act that eliminated the habeas corpus jurisdiction. To succeed, the motion needed 60 votes. It fell short 56-43.

While this wasn’t an ultimate vote on the merits of the bill, I’m pleased to see Johnson at least supported consideration of the measure moving forward. As might be expected, Sen. Thune voted the Bush line as the White House reportedly threatened to veto the defense bill if it contained the habeas amendment.


The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.

U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9

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