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House OKs indefinite detentions, TBI treatment

The House today voted 182-238 against a bipartisan amendment to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act, expressing Congress’ view that no one detained on U.S. soil can be indefinitely detained and that every person deserves access to a lawyer and a fair judicial process.

All Bay Area members voted for the amendment except Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, who didn’t vote.

“Last year, when President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, he laid out his concerns regarding provisions that would have allowed for indefinite detention of American citizens and required that certain individuals captured even on US soil be held in military custody,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said afterward.

“The Smith-Amash amendment would have addressed these concerns, righting a wrong that flies in the face of our commitment to protect the American people and have the proper balance between security and liberty,” she said. “I’m disappointed that Republicans in the House failed to join the vast majority of Democrats in supporting this amendment to realign detention policy with the U.S. Constitution.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, had co-sponsored the amendment.

“The NDAA allows the Executive Branch the power to detain individuals indefinitely without giving them their day in court,” he said. “Not only does this subvert the core principles embedded in our Constitution, this policy prevents our judicial system from trying and punishing anyone who would harm Americans. Instead of allowing terrorists to hang in legal limbo, we must bring them to justice.”

Among other amendments, however, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, scored a win with his bipartisan effort to speed up new and innovative treatments to servicemembers and veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Our troops and veterans have earned the very best treatment and care that we can provide,” said Thompson. “But sometimes the best treatments aren’t available at military and veteran medical facilities. My amendment will make sure that our heroes who return from combat with TBI or PTSD have access to the highest quality care our nation has to offer.”

The amendment Thompson cosponsored with Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, creates a new five-year, $10 million pilot program to let military patients get treatment from health care facilities outside the VA that use cutting-edge, successful therapies for TBI and PTSD. Physicians and residential treatment centers can qualify for payment from the Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs through a “pay-for-performance” plan, meaning they must prove a patient has had demonstrable improvement. The amendment also requires an annual report to Congress on the results of the program, as well as a report on plans to integrate successful methods into Defense and VA medical facilities.

Ultimately, the House passed the NDAA today on a 299-120 vote; the only Bay Area member to vote for it was Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.