Thursday, June 18, 2009

Democrats in Congress block Gitmo closing, transfer of detainees to U.S.

The Democratic majority in Congress is making good on its previously stated opposition to President Obama's plan to shut the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and transfer some of the more than 200 remaining detainees to U.S. soil.

Today, the House of Representatives voted to prohibit the relocation of detainees to the U.S. through 2010. This follows action earlier this week in which the House refused to allow funds to be used to shut the facility this year.

The bill before the House Thursday prohibits the release of detainees into the United States during the 2010 budget year. It would allow the transfer to the United States of detainees for prosecution or detention only after Congress has had two months to read a White House report on how it plans to shut the detention facility and disperse the inmates.

The House bill also requires the Obama administration to notify lawmakers of any plans to transfer detainees to other countries.

The House did beat back a Republican-backed amendment that would have imposed far tighter restrictions on Obama's plans for Gitmo -- but only by a single vote, 213 to 212. Thirty-nine Democrats joined with Republicans in voting for this amendment, which would have barred the Justice Department from using its budgeted funds to implement Obama's January executive order to close Gitmo within a year. The decisive vote against the amendment was cast by the self-styled libertarian Republican, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

With polls showing strong public disapproval of closing Gitmo and overwhelming opposition to bringing detainees to the U.S., Obama is not going to be able to count on Dermocrats in Congress to support his plan -- at least not until they get themselves reelected in November 2010.

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