Senate Democrats press for closing Gitmo prison but with detainees blocked from coming to US

Senate Democrats want Gitmo inmates kept out of US

WASHINGTON — New legislation by Senate Democrats would fund the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but it would block the transfer of any of the detainees to the United States.

The move to sidestep a political minefield is a rebuff to President Barack Obama, whose promise to close the Guantanamo facility within a year of taking office has run into Republicans and Democrats opposed to bringing accused terrorists onto U.S. shores.

The development comes as the full House and a key Senate panel are poised to advance Obama’s $85 billion request for military and diplomatic efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, a request that has swelled by another $5 billion to reflect the cost of new U.S. contributions to the International Monetary Fund.

The request for $50 million to close Guantanamo and transfer its detainees elsewhere has attracted much controversy, occupying many lawmakers — especially Republicans — even as other lawmakers voice growing worries about the chances of defeating al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The administration has yet to produce a plan for what to do with the approximately 240 Guantanamo detainees, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that between 50 and 100 would end up in U.S. facilities.

The $96.7 billion measure headed for a House vote Thursday contains no funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees, though the Pentagon retains the ability to seek informal approval to transfer funds from other accounts to achieve its goals.

But Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, on Wednesday circulated an approximately $91.5 billion measure that includes $50 million to shutter Guantanamo and move its prisoners — with the proviso that they can’t be sent to the United States. The Senate bill appears to favor paying foreign governments to accept the prisoners.

It’s by no means certain that other countries will prove willing to accept many Guantanamo detainees, especially if the United States is unwilling.

House Democratic leaders weighed in Wednesday with a plan that would block any release of Guantanamo detainees within the United States but that would allow them to be shipped to the U.S. to stand trial or to serve their sentences.


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