At Least Congress Has a Brain
President Barack Obama's allies in the Senate will not provide funds to close the Guantanamo Bay prison until the administration comes up with a satisfactory plan for transferring the detainees there, a top Democrat said Tuesday.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said Obama's plan to close Guantanamo is not dead — only that the funding will have to wait until the administration devises an acceptable plan to handle the closure and transfer the detainees. Obama has promised to close the military prison by January.
"The administration has not come up with a plan at this point," said Durbin, who is the whip, or No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. He added that Democrats are likely to address the issue on later legislation. "I think Guantanamo should be closed and we have to wait for the president's direction on what happens to the detainees."
With debate looming on Obama's spending request to cover military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, says Democrats will deny the Pentagon and Justice Department $80 million to relocate Guantanamo's 240 detainees.
The administration has yet to develop a plan for what to do with the detainees, and Obama's promise to close the facility is facing strong GOP opposition.
It appears to be a tactical retreat. Once the administration develops a plan to close the facility, congressional Democrats are likely to revisit the topic, provided they are satisfied there are adequate safeguards.
Explaining the reversal, Durbin said: "The feeling was at this point we were defending the unknown. We were being asked to defend a plan that hasn't been announced. And the administration said, 'Understood. Give us time to put together that plan and we'll come to you in the next appropriations bill.'"
We could not get our allies to take any of these detainees. Attorney General Eric Holder was told as much in his quick jaunt to Europe a couple weeks ago. And none of those in Congress want trained, hardened terrorists released on US soil in their back yard. Of course, can anyone really blame them?
We have a good deal of terrorist cells suspected of being here in the US right now. These cells are supposedly still under surveillance -- surveillance ordered by President Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The last thing we need to happen is for any of these detainees to hook up with their associates here in America. The outcome could have wide-ranging and devastating effects on the nation. Do we really want to help our enemies carry out another attack? No we do not. We want to remain safe and secure, and right now the only way we will stay that way is to ensure those detainees stay where they can do this nation no harm.
We give praise to the Senate for following suit with the House, and telling the president that until he comes up with a plan to deal with these detainees they will not authorize or fund the closure of the detention facility. I should note that they are not closing the entire base down, just the detention facility, and Congress has said they will not go along until a sensible plan is on the table.