North Carolina Republican Sens. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Thom Tillis voted on Tuesday in favor of an amendment that would make the use of torture illegal.
President Barack Obama banned the use of torture and any abusive and coercive interrogation techniques in an executive order on Jan. 22, 2009, just after he took office. However, a future president could undo an executive order.
The amendment is to the National Defense Authorization Act. The Senate was scheduled to vote later on whether to cut off debate and have a vote on the bill.
The vote on the anti-torture amendment was 78-21. (Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential hopeful from Florida, didn’t vote).
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“It is long overdue,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., one of the sponsors of the amendment, said on the Senate floor.
The measure would prohibit any interrogation techniques that are not authorized by the Army field manual. It also would codify the part of the executive order that guarantees that the International Committee of the Red Cross has access to all detainees.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, also spoke on the Senate floor in favor of the torture ban amendment.
“I believe past interrogation policies compromised our values, stained our national honor and did little practical good,” McCain said.
The comment was a reference to the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other measures in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks during the administration of President George W. Bush.
“The program was morally wrong and must never be repeated,” the National Religious Campaign Against Torture said in a letter to senators.
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture last week delivered petitions with 34,000 signatures to Burr’s office calling on him to increase transparency about the CIA’s previous use of torture. The group has criticized Burr for not releasing a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on past interrogation methods.
Burr said earlier that the report “only endangers our officers and allies in a blatant attempt to smear the Bush administration.”