Defense vote was about NM economy, Heinrich says
Though Martin Heinrich is fighting against a provision he worries would authorize the military to detain Americans without charge or trial, he voted for a defense bill that included it last week because, he says, of the importance of defense funding to New Mexico’s economy.
In December, I praised U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich for voting against a defense-spending bill that included a controversial provision many believe would authorize the military to detain Americans without charge or trial.
“Even as he seeks the Senate seat being vacated by (Jeff) Bingaman next year, Heinrich took a principled stance that won’t benefit him politically,” I wrote in that column.
Heinrich has been under scrutiny since last week, when the defense-funding bill once again came up in the House for a vote. This time, the Democrat voted for it, even though it once again contained the detention provision.
Did Heinrich abandon his principles? Not at all, he told NMPolitics.net. He described a battle on the House floor to strip the detention language from the bill. It was a fight he and his allies lost.
While the GOP was divided over the detention provision last year, it was more unified in its support for the provision this time around, though Heinrich noted that one Tea Party-leaning Republican sided with him in fighting against the provision.
Heinrich pointed out that he was an early co-sponsor of a bill that would make clear that the military can’t detain Americans or lawful, permanent residents without charge or trial. He co-authored a commentary in the D.C. publication The Hill in January in support of that legislation.
“The right to a trial is a core principle of the American legal system,” that column states. “Depriving Americans of these essential liberties undermines the Constitution while doing nothing to strengthen our national security.”
So why vote for the defense bill this time around? Heinrich said he had to make a decision between voting against the entire bill because of the provision or voting for a bill that funds defense spending that is critical to New Mexico’s economy.
“I think the language is terrible,” Heinrich said of the detainment provision. “There are other things in the bill that are really important to New Mexico.”
That’s not the decision he made last time, he said, because in December the provision was added to the bill in the Senate and came up quickly for a House vote without time for a lot of scrutiny. This time he fought to remove the provision and is waging a larger campaign against it.
What it boils down to, Heinrich said, is that he has fought and will keep fighting to ensure the military can’t detain Americans or lawful, permanent residents without charge or trial, but he’s not going to sacrifice New Mexico’s economy and jobs in the process.
A pledge to keep fighting
Heinrich said he is going to keep pushing for a House vote on the bill that would clarify that detainment without charge or trial is not allowed. The defense-funding bill still needs Senate approval, and he said he and others would also be pushing the Senate to strip the detainment provision.
And, he said, there’s a lawsuit challenging the provision in New York State.
“I don’t think that this language is constitutionally consistent, and I’m hopeful that if we can’t get it stripped out in the short term, the courts will do it,” Heinrich said.
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