Sept. 19, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER
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Democrats Push Back on Obama Gitmo Plan

Democratic aides agreed that the leadership essentially decided to strip the funding because they did not see the need for Members to take politically difficult votes on the issue. And it appeared that leaders would have had a difficult time actually finding the votes to beat back expected GOP amendments to strip the money or bar terrorism detainees from entering the U.S.

Even consistently loyal Democrats said the president’s request was badly timed.

“I think this money was premature,” Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said. Feinstein indicated that Republican attacks on the dangers of housing terror suspects in U.S. prisons caused the Democrats to backtrack on the funding, even as she argued that cutting the money was the right thing to do now.

“I think Americans don’t know that we already have major terrorists and serial killers housed in supermax federal prisons from which no one has ever escaped and is not in anyone’s community,” Feinstein said. She added that the GOP’s argument is “just a lot of bull, but it’s a problem because it gets people upset.”

Republicans welcomed the news that Democrats were backpedaling.

“Now I understand our friends on the other side of the aisle are — shall I say — moving in our direction rapidly on this issue,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.

Still, McConnell said Democrats were not going to avoid tough votes just because the funding would not be in the bill. McConnell himself offered an amendment Tuesday that would require the administration to do a “threat assessment” on every detainee at Guantánamo. That assessment would have to include whether the detainee is likely to become a repeat terrorism offender.

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