The U.S. Senate Wednesday
voted to block the transfer of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention
center and withhold money requested by the Obama administration to close the
facility. It is a major setback for President Barack Obama, who on Thursday is
expected to address lawmakers' concerns about his plan to shutdown Guantanamo by
January of next year.
The Democratic-led Senate voted 90 to 6 to deny the Obama administration the $80 million it sought for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay facility by early next year. It also blocked the use of the funds to transfer detainees held at the center to U.S. soil.
The action came as senators debated a $91-billion funding bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Senator Dick Durbin is an Illinois Democrat:
"There will not be any Guantanamo funding in this bill," said Senator Durbin.
Although many Democrats and some Republicans favor shutting down the detention center, which they argue has come to exemplify the extreme antiterrorism tactics that have hurt the U.S. image abroad, they oppose funding the closure before a plan is in place on what to do with the 240 detainees being held there.
The Senate vote follows similar action in the House of Representatives last week.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs acknowledged congressional concerns and said President Obama will speak to the issue in a major national security address Thursday.
"We share Congress' belief that before resources are given for a project, they deserve a more detailed plan," said Robert Gibbs. "The president will lay out the framework on many of those decisions and some of the work that has to be done between now and then to make progress in closing Guantanamo Bay."
But Mr. Obama faces a daunting task. Many lawmakers do not want detainees transferred to their states for incarceration or trial. Others fear some detainees could be released.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky:
"Americans don't want some of the most dangerous men alive coming here or released overseas where they can return to the fight, as many other detainees who have been released from Guantanamo already have," said Senator McConnell.
The Senate could finish action on the overall funding bill as early as this week. The measure then would have to be reconciled with the House-passed legislation before a final bill is sent to President Obama for his signature.