This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Lewis (R-CA) to H.R. 2847, which provided fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice and for federal science and other programs. The amendment would have prohibited any funds in the bill from being used to implement the executive order issued by President Obama to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility where a large number of suspected terrorists were being held.
The House had just defeated the same amendment by an extremely narrow margin. The votes of those Members representing the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories and possessions such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, determined the outcome. Under House procedure, there was an automatic revote on the amendment in which those Members representing the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories and possessions were excluded.
Lewis had begun his statement in support of the amendment by noting that the president signed the order to close the facility more than four months previously and “there is still no evidence of a plan to carry out this order and no consultation with the Congress.” Lewis also noted that: “(T)he Guantanamo detainees include the perpetrators of some of the most horrific terrorist acts against Americans . . . .” including 9/11, the USS Cole bombing, and the Embassy bombings in Africa”, and that a number of them had been secretly released to other countries “without an assessment of the risks to the American people at home and abroad or without an assessment of the risk to our U.S. forces . . . .” Lewis then cited the recent testimony of FBI Director Mueller “that bringing detainees to U.S. soil poses risks to national security, including providing financing, radicalizing others and undertaking attacks in the United States.” He added that “the Department of Defense has reported that at least 14 percent of former Guantanamo detainees have returned to terrorist activity in the region.”
Lewis concluded his remarks by claiming: “(T)his administration is ignoring or is disregarding those risks, and it is stonewalling the Congress. We need to stop this administration from rushing to transfer or to resettle any more detainees at the expense of an increased risk to Americans.”
Rep. Mollohan (D-WV) was managing H.R. 2847 for the Democrats and opposed the amendment. He said that the Guantanamo Bay facility had been “an embarrassment to the country. It's a symbol that has really fomented a lot of opposition to the United States around the world. The continued existence of Gitmo is a basic assault on our values, and it undermines the success in our counterterrorism programs.” He then noted: “(P)resident Obama and I aren't the only ones who believe this . . . both President Bush's Secretaries of State and a variety of other bipartisan political officials agree that it should be closed.”
Mollohan also argued that H.R. 2847 “includes provisions to ensure that the Congress will have sufficient opportunity to weigh in on that plan (to close the facility), when it is submitted, and to preclude most activities prior to that . . . We have established a good process for the consideration of this issue, and it should be allowed to play out before we start prejudicing a plan that we don't even have before us.”
This legislation before us tonight does not permit the release of Gitmo detainees into the United States during fiscal year 2010. It does not permit the transfer of detainees to the U.S. for detention or prosecution purposes until 2 months after we've received the plan. It does not permit the transfer of detainees to foreign countries without notification and certifications to the Congress, and it does not provide any funds for activities relating to the Gitmo closure. This will ensure that we have additional opportunities to debate this issue . . . .”
The amendment was defeated on a vote of 212-213. One hundred and seventy-three Republicans and thirty-nine Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and eleven Democrats and two Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, language was not added to the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, which would have prohibited any money in the bill to be used to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.