WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday reaffirmed a ban against torturing detainees and moved ahead on a more than $600 billion defense policy bill that is entangled in a broader fight in Congress about caps on Pentagon and non-military spending.

The Senate overwhelmingly voted 78 to 21 to approve an amendment that bolsters current law and makes the U.S. Army Field Manual on interrogations the standard for all interrogations conducted by the U.S. government. It also gives the International Committee of the Red Cross access to every detainee held by the U.S.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, both voted in favor of the amendment.

The vote comes just months after the Senate intelligence committee released findings of a classified investigation that said the CIA’s brutal interrogations of al-Qaida detainees after 9/11 were harsher than previously thought.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who introduced the amendment with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said it was important because the presidential executive order banning torture could one day be lifted by a future president.

California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he would do all he can to support the measure in the House.


“By ensuring that the Army Field Manual exclusively applies to all U.S. government interrogations and by mandating access to detainees by the International Committee of the Red Cross, we will make sure America lives up to its highest ideals,” Schiff said.

Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the measure would permanently ban the CIA from using any tactics that the military cannot use and will prohibit the CIA from hiding detainees from the Red Cross.

After voting on amendments, the Senate voted 83 to 15 to move ahead on the defense policy bill that would authorize spending for the Defense Department and related programs.

President Obama has threatened to veto any spending bill that locks in the automatic caps that Congress imposed a few years ago to address government deficits. He says he won’t accept fixes to the defense budgeting problem that don’t also address money spent on domestic programs. Democrats say they will block the Senate from even voting on a defense appropriations bill.

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