House Republicans beat back an effort Tuesday to remove parts of an intelligence bill that would prohibit the use of funds to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and make it harder for the administration to house the suspected terrorists on U.S. soil.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat who sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, pushed to unshackle the White House, saying he couldn’t support the overarching bill to authorize funding for the National Security Agency, CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies unless the Guantanamo measures were removed.
“Keeping Guantanamo prison open serves as a recruitment tool for militants,” he said. “It undercuts our relationships with our allies and undermines our international standing.”
But his amendment failed on a 246-176 vote after Republicans said they were putting national priorities first and keeping America safe from “people who don’t like us.”
“I’m sorry, Boko Haram and other do not hate us only because of the prison,” said Rep. Doug Collins, Georgia Republican, referring to an extremist group that has been plaguing West Africa. “They hate use because we’re free. They hate us because we have an society that is open.”
He noted there were no detainees at Guantanamo when terrorists “rammed planes into the World Trade Center” on Sept. 11, 2001.
Rep. Alcee Hastings, Florida Democrat, said while terrorist groups would still attract recruits, a shuttered Guantanamo would be “one less arrow in their quiver.”
For years, Mr. Obama has pushed to close the prison by working with foreign nations to transfer detainees while putting security measures in place to mitigate their threat.
“Operating this facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists,” the White House said in its veto threat to the intelligence bill. “Rather than taking steps to bring this chapter of our history to a close, as the President has repeatedly called upon Congress to do, this bill aims to extend it.”
House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and others have accused the administration of transferring prisoners tied to terrorist groups, including six who were sent to Oman in recent days, with little oversight.
“The administration should be honest with the American people regarding the detainees’ terrorist affiliations and activities and about what steps are being taken to prevent their return to terrorism,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican, said after the Oman transfer.