SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - President Barack Obama came under
fire Tuesday for including $80 million to close Guantanamo in a
massive funding request to fight America's wars in Iraq and
The $83.4 billion request to Congress was submitted on April 9,
when lawmakers were on break over the Easter holidays. Tucked into
the 99-page bill were a few paragraphs about Guantanamo - including
a request for funds for foreign countries that accept prisoners.
U.S. efforts to have other countries take in detainees have largely
been a flop - stoking fears the men will end up in America.
"The administration needs to tell the American people what it
plans to do with these men if they close Guantanamo," U.S. Senate
Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
He pointed out that two years ago the Senate voted 94-3 against
sending detainees to the U.S.
McConnell opposes closing Guantanamo.
"Foreign countries have thus far been unwilling to take them in
any significant numbers. And even if countries were willing to take
them, there's an increasing probability that some of these
murderers would return to the battlefield," he said.
Military Families United, a military family advocacy
organization, predicted the inclusion of money to close Guantanamo
in the war-funding request "will significantly delay the passage
of this legislation and delay our troops from getting the funding
they need and deserve."
"Funding for our troops cannot be made contingent on funding
for an unrelated and politically divisive issue like the closure of
Guantanamo Bay," the group said.
McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said Republicans are looking at
ways to strip the Guantanamo money from the funding bill. There is
no move afoot to block the entire funding bill because "this is
money for our troops," Stewart said.
Obama seeks $30 million in Justice Department funding to shut
down the Guantanamo detention center, review U.S. detention and
interrogation procedures and fund future litigation.
Another $50 million in Defense Department funds sought by Obama
would support the relocation of the 240 prisoners at Guantanamo,
which Obama has ordered closed by January, and redeploy military
and support forces associated with the detention center on the Navy
Some of the $50 million would also "provide assistance to
foreign nations" as detainees are relocated.
The U.S. wants to resettle dozens of Guantanamo prisoners in
foreign lands, but countries have been reluctant to take them
because of security concerns.
A senior Obama administration official indicated Tuesday that
some of the funding could be used to help foreign nations pay for
rehabilitation programs. The official was not authorized to discuss
the issue publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.