Senate Democrats to Strip Funding to Close Gitmo

Posted May 19, 2009 at 10:55am

Senate Democrats have decided to try to take the wind out of Republican attacks on President Barack Obama’s plan to shutter the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, by stripping funding for the facility’s closure from the $91.3 billion supplemental spending bill.

Senior Democratic sources said Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) will offer an amendment on the floor Tuesday or later this week to eliminate the $80 million he included in his mark of the measure to close the prison. Language barring the administration from releasing any Guantánamo prisoners on U.S. soil would likely be included.

Additionally, the new Inouye proposal will likely include a two- to three-month period from the time Obama presents a plan for the transfer of suspected terrorists to when he can access any funding to close the facility. Both provisions mirror language in the House-passed supplemental.

Guantánamo houses hundreds of detainees picked up in Afghanistan and Iraq in the war on terror. The list includes the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Republicans have been hammering Democrats for vowing to close the prison within a year without laying out a plan for where to house the detainees. The GOP has particularly seized upon statements by Obama administration officials that a group of Chinese Muslims picked up in Afghanistan might be released to the U.S. Others have warned that even placing known terrorists in U.S. maximum security prisons would present national security risks.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) was expected to offer an amendment stripping the money out of the bill, but other amendments to try to stop the prison’s closure are still likely.