Washington: In a sharp rebuke to the White House, the Senate passed legislation on Wednesday that would impose sweeping restrictions on interrogation methods used by the CIA and ban a condemned technique known as waterboarding, in which a prisoner is made to feel he is drowning.
President Bush is expected to veto the Bill, which would outlaw an array of coercive interrogation tactics that US allies have denounced but the administration has claimed are critical to preventing terrorist attacks.
The measure, which has already passed in the House, would require the CIA to abide by interrogation guidelines adopted by the US Army in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.
Because of the looming veto threat, the Senate vote was seen in some ways as a political showdown over one of the most divisive issues in the country's response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Last week, the CIA confirmed it has used waterboarding and the White House said the technique could be authorised again - reigniting a controversy over human rights and national security.
The debate has ties to two other sensitive issues: the Bush administration's decision this week to seek the death penalty in military commission trials for six accused September 11 plotters and its push for congressional approval of expanded electronic surveillance in a measure that immunises phone companies for their role in past spying.
The Senate passed such a Bill this week, and House members are debating whether to go along.
Many Democratic lawmakers have denounced waterboarding as a form of torture that has undermined US moral standing.
"To me, this is really a very big day," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, sponsor of the provision that would limit interrogation methods.
But leading Republicans -- as well as conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia - have defended the legality of what the CIA refers to as "enhanced" interrogation techniques.
The decision by Republicans to allow a vote on the measure suggested party leaders saw political advantage in avoiding the showdown and setting up a presidential veto.
Many Democratic lawmakers have denounced waterboarding as a form of torture that has underminedUS moral standing.