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House acts to block closing of Gitmo
In blow to Obama, ban on detainee-transfer funds part of spending bill
The final bill passed with no Republican support, while 35 House Democrats broke with their party leadership to also oppose the bill.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, said the bill contains an expansion of Indian gambling, while other Republicans said the bill would fund controversial parts of this year’s health care law.
The bill does kill funding for some programs entirely, including the Homeland Security Department office that was responsible for coordinating Gulf Coast rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.
On Guantanamo Bay, by blocking the administration from spending money on a replacement prison or any prisoner transfers, Congress would effectively stop the administration from acting over the next year.
And with Republicans dead-set against closing the prison, and poised to take control of the House in January, chances are virtually zero that Congress will relent any time before Mr. Obama stands for re-election in 2012.
“None of the funds provided to the Department of Justice in this or any prior act shall be available for the acquisition of any facility that is to be used wholly or in part for the incarceration or detention of any individual detained at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as of June 24, 2009,” the bill says.
The bill explicitly prohibits the transfer to the U.S. mainland of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“Guantanamo Bay is a strategic intelligence facility to detain terror suspects. Passing this legislation effectively blocks the administration from haphazardly closing the doors of Gitmo,” said retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, former commander of the USS Cole and now senior military fellow at Military Families United, a pro-defense lobby.
The legislative shackles came at the same time that a new report shows 150 former detainees, or more than 25 percent of the 598 who have been released from Guantanamo Bay, took up arms or worked against the U.S. in its war on terrorism after their release.
Closing the prison was one of Mr. Obama’s chief campaign pledges and was one of the first orders he issued after being inaugurated last year, when he set a one-year deadline for closure. But he’s struggled to carry it out, failing to meet his deadline and battling both Republicans and Democrats in Congress who fear a prison on U.S. soil would be riskier and could confer new rights on detainees.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told a Senate panel that the administration was ready to move forward, but needed Congress to approve the money to buy a new prison in the United States. The department was eyeing a facility in Illinois, Mr. Obama’s home state, as a likely candidate for the massive conversion that would be required to hold detainees.
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About the Author
Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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