This was a vote on a motion to recommit offered by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) that prohibited funds provided by a Defense bill from being used to transfer inmates from the Guantanamo Bay prison to the United States. Since 2001, the federal government had held suspected terrorists at a detention center in Guantanamo Bay.
A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's last chance to make substantive changes to a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. If successful, the motion sends the legislation back to committee with instructions to amend the legislation as specified.
Forbes urged support for his motion to recommit: “…Sometimes things are not as complex as we try to make them here in Washington. In fact, sometimes our best decisions come down to simple truths. One of those truths is that Americans are safer when our government fights to keep terrorists off U.S. soil rather than when it fights to bring them here.”
No members spoke in opposition to the motion to recommit. More than half of all House Democrats, however – including most progressives – voted “nay.” Calls to Democratic offices seeking an explanation for their votes were not returned.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a staunch ally of the Obama administration and a supporter of closing the Guantanamo Bay facility, said this in 2009, as quoted by ABC News: "If we can safely hold these individuals, I believe we can safely hold any Guantanamo detainees who need to be held…no prisoner has ever escaped in the United States, period. Republicans also claim the administration wants to release terrorists in our communities, some kind of work release, walking around situation for terrorists. What an incredible charge, and patently false. President Obama has made clear that Guantanamo will be closed in a manner consistent with our national security."
A July 21 article in Roll Call entitled “Guantánamo Debate Has Gone Silent on Capitol Hill,” made note of the Democrats’ hesitancy to address Guantanamo. The article quoted House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) as saying: “That’s [Guantanamo] not an issue being discussed very broadly. I think that you’re not going to see it discussed very broadly in the near term.” Indeed, a number of Democrats who had once opposed Republican efforts to prohibit funding for transferring Guantanamo detainees voted differently on this motion to recommit. For example, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) voted in favor of the motion to recommit. In 2009, however, Ruppersberger said this about transferring Guantanamo detainees to the U.S.: “…If, in fact, there are prisoners that are so dangerous that would hurt our country, I would much rather have us control those prisoners. If we need to bring them to the United States of America to try them, I have more confidence in our court system and our prison system than some of the countries they go back to where they could escape and come back and do harm to our citizens.”
The House agreed to the motion to recommit by a vote of 282-131. 168 Republicans and 114 Democrats voted “yea.” 130 Democrats and 1 Republican voted “nay.” As a result, the House voted to prohibit the Defense bill’s funds from being used to transfer inmates from the Guantanamo Bay prison to the United States.