In what I only can describe as a smack to the head, President Obama’s request for $80 million in supplemental funding to close Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was voted down by a 90-6 vote in the Senate this afternoon.
This is not unexpected since politicians have a habit of speaking a great game and completely failing on their actions. On the day that Obama signed the Executive Order to close Gitmo, the administration made a big deal about doing the right thing, but I immediately questioned moving forward without any sort of plan.
Let’s just bullet point this…
- There is no way anyone in Congress will go along with accepting detainees into their district. That would be political suicide.
- Federal prisons don’t want them either.
- Although France has taken one detainee, many countries in Europe do not want to take any of them, especially since the United States has not committed to taking any of them. “You first!” they cry.
- Although Europe in general demanded that Gitmo be closed, there is little interest in taking released detainees and one of the stumbling blocks is the European Union does not have any borders. If Portugal takes one or two and they are released from custody, the detainee would be free to travel from country to country in the EU.
The Senate voted on Wednesday to yank money for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp from a war spending bill, delivering a setback to President Obama in his efforts to shutter the prison by the start of 2010.
By a vote of 90-6, the Senate approved an amendment that not only blocks supplemental funds from being used to close Guantanamo and move detainees to U.S. soil, but also orders that no funds already in U.S. coffers be redirected toward that purpose.
Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the vote to strip the $80 million Obama had wanted should not be seen as a rebuke to the administration but a “wake up call.”
He said it is “up to the administration to fashion a plan that can win the support of the American people and members of Congress.”
Obama is trying to do exactly that with a speech Thursday meant to shed light on how the administration expects to transfer 240 detainees off the island. He wants to keep Democratic unrest from derailing his plans to close the detention camp.
If we take prisoners from Gitmo and place them into federal prisons in the United States, my bet is the next step could be release into the United States.
Can someone tell me what the difference is between holding these prisoners – for life if necessary – at Gitmo compared to a federal prison? My guess is they will prefer Gitmo, unless of course they spend a bunch of money to build out special facilities for them.
So what’s your bet? Obama is set for a speech to lay out his plan (demands) on Thursday.
My crystal ball tells me Obama will say something like we need to work together to ensure that the detainees be treated fairly while protecting the population of the United States. He’ll also say if we expect other countries to join us in this effort, we must be willing to close Gitmo and accept that detainees must be allowed into federal prisons in the United States.
Congress has completely dumped this problem on Obama since they know it is a no-win situation for them. If Obama uses his famous mob-like tactics to place detainees into the federal system, Congress can blame the Executive Branch.
Obama owns this issue now. If anything happens, he – and he alone – will be to blame.