Durbin: Gitmo Remains Stumbling Block in Supplemental

Posted June 4, 2009 at 2:05pm

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Thursday that the House and Senate are unlikely to finalize conference negotiations on the more than $90 billion supplemental war spending bill until next week, partly because of the uncertainty over how to deal with restrictions Congress wants to place on the movement of detainees at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, military prison.Durbin said changes to the language are needed because President Barack Obama needs the flexibility to move detainees to the United States for trial, which is prohibited under the separate supplemental bills passed by the House and Senate. Obama issued an executive order in January that requires the prison be closed within a year, but Congress has refused his request for $80 million to do so until he presents a detailed plan on what he would do with the hundreds of suspected terrorists housed there.Durbin added that Democratic leaders realized they would have to soften their language on what to do with Guantánamo following Obama’s May 21 speech on detainee policy, which came just one day after the Senate voted to bar him from ever imprisoning or releasing the detainees in the United States.“Our timing was not good,— Durbin said. “Most people realized that if the president was going to achieve his goals of bringing anyone to trial that they would clearly have to be brought to the United States and incarcerated during the trial. That’s so obvious.—Other Democrats said the consensus is to simply change the supplemental to allow temporary detentions in the U.S. Permanent detentions would still be prohibited.Durbin acknowledged that the Senate vote on May 20 presented Democrats with another political problem since other countries have said they will not agree to take responsibility for some detainees if the U.S. refuses to hold any of them on their own soil.“I think it’s naive of us to think that the rest of the world is going to take over the Guantánamo detainees and we have no responsibility,— Durbin said. However, the Majority Whip said it was unlikely that the problem could be solved on the supplemental.“Some [Members] are dug in and stated public positions and cast votes,— he said. “So it makes it more difficult.—