- The Washington Times - Friday, May 28, 2010

The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees.

Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.

The fight came as part of the committee’s debate on the annual Defense authorization bill, which took place Wednesday and Thursday and were closed to the public.

Mr. Levin, Michigan Democrat, said he opposed the move and said it will “basically make it more difficult to close Guantanamo.” He said that will be one of several battles that will be re-fought when the bill reaches the full Senate.

Last month Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told a congressional committee that the main obstacle to closing Guantanamo Bay was buying the Thomson facility.

The House’s version of the Defense bill, which the full House was debating this week, does not stop the government from buying the prison but blocks the retrofitting of the prison.

The Senate committee also adopted an amendment that would prevent the administration from returning suspected terrorist detainees to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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