GOP Motion Exposes Democratic Divide on Gitmo

Posted October 1, 2009 at 3:53pm

A House vote on a GOP motion tied to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detainees on Thursday exposed a split among Democrats over the way in which the Obama administration is handling the impending closure of the prison.Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), ranking member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, offered a motion to instruct Homeland Security conferees to adopt language in the bill that would prohibit detainees from being transferred to U.S. prisons. The motion also instructs conferees to prevent the release of controversial detainee abuse photographs.The motion overwhelmingly passed, 258-163, with 88 Democrats and all but one of the Republicans voting in favor of it. Shortly after the vote, a Homeland Security appropriations conference committee meeting scheduled for this afternoon was canceled.Rogers speculated that Democratic appropriators canceled the meeting because they were not prepared to address the issue of Guantánamo detainees — or the fact that his motion passed with so much support from Democrats.“They don’t know how to handle this issue,— Rogers said. President Barack Obama “is the biggest pusher of closing down Gitmo and moving some of the prisoners here,— he continued. “So this flew right in the face of that.—The Kentucky Republican said he thought his motion caught top Democrats off guard and that many of their faces had the same look when the motion passed: “dejected.—Appropriations spokesman Ellis Brachman dismissed the idea that the Guantánamo motion played into the meeting being delayed.“I don’t think I can be clearer: Conference was postponed because the package is not ready. The managers are working to finalize a few issues and we hope to bring it up as soon as possible,— Brachman said.House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said he had expected the motion to pass, though he voted against it, and he stressed that it carried little significance. A motion to instruct is “sometimes just tantamount to what you would call not a rule vote but a procedural vote,— Clyburn said. “There’s no divide in the Democratic Party on this issue.—But several Republicans said they thought their frustration on the issue is now starting to spill over onto Democrats, who want to give the president time to figure out the best way forward in closing the prison, but not too much time. “I was telling people back in my district when they were talking about closing it in January, ‘I guarantee you next January, it will not be closed,’— Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. [Former President George W. Bush] would have closed it if it was an easy thing to do.—Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) took to the floor before the motion passed to urge opposition to it on the grounds that the United States is equipped to house Guantánamo prisoners.“I refuse to believe that our law enforcement officials, our prison officials, and our Justice Department officials are not skilled enough and thoughtful enough to imprison these thugs in high-security facilities at minimal or no danger to our citizens and our communities,— Obey said.Obey warned against letting other countries “deal with our problems— as “we … let them fester because we don’t want to deal with them and make hard choices ourselves. That’s unacceptable, and I think it’s time that we face up to that.—