(H.R. 2892) The House and Senate had passed differing versions of H.R. 2997, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of Homeland Security. As is usual procedure in such situations, a conference was scheduled between representatives of the two bodies to develop a final version of the bill.
This was a vote on a motion by Rep. Rogers (R-KY) for the House to instruct its representatives to the conference on a few matters. One of the positions was to insist on a prohibition of the transfer to the United States of terrorism suspects being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison. A second was to insist on a prohibition of the publication of pictures of the prisoners. The third was to require that the final version of the bill agreed on in the conference be made public at least 72 hours before being considered on the House floor.
Rep. Rogers, arguing in support of his motion, said its purpose is “protecting the American people from all threats, including the warped intentions of terrorists and radical extremists.” He noted that “the Obama Administration has insisted the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay be shuttered within the year. But what have we seen during that time in preparation for that? Absolutely nothing . . .” Rogers added: “(N)ow . . . the administration is thinking of releasing up to 75 of the detainees there . . . this motion prohibits the granting of any immigration benefit for any reason to these detainees. Without such a benefit, there is no legal way to bring these terrorists to American soil . . . That means these terrorists cannot be granted the same constitutional rights as American citizens. After all, these detainees are enemy combatants caught on the battlefield . . . and they should not be granted legal standing in our criminal courts . . . .”
Regarding the instructions to prohibit the release of photographs, Rogers approvingly quoted President Obama saying: “(N)othing would be gained from the release of the detainee photos other than allowing our enemies to paint our troops with a broad, damning, and inaccurate brush.'' Regarding the 72 hour requirement, the Republican minority had been arguing during the entire congressional session that the Democratic majority had been rushing important and complex bills to the House floor without giving Members adequate time to review them.
Rep. Price (D-NC) opposed the motion. He argued that the instruction not to allow the bringing of any prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay to the United States for the purpose of prosecution “goes against basic American principles, as well as basic American interests. People are to be given due process and access to a fair trial in this country, and it is certainly in this country's interest to bring these people to trial, to dispose of their cases.” He added that the instruction Rep. Rogers proposed is “basically saying that our judicial and law enforcement officials are unable to handle these criminals here in the United States, and that our country's core values and interests do not apply in these cases. That's just wrong. The U.S. has successfully tried dangerous terrorists before . . . .”
Rep. Obey (D-WI), who chairs the Appropriations Committee, also opposed the motion. He argued that the Guantanamo Bay prison problem was created by the previous Bush Administration, which, he said “had no process by which to separate the merely criminal or the merely misguided from the truly evil. And as a result . . . the United States . . . has come to be seen by some these days as a pretty major apologist for torture and imprisonment without review or remedy.” Obey also said the Guantanamo Bay facility had to be closed and its prisoners transferred to the U.S., if necessary, because the prison “has become a major liability to this country in the court of world opinion and in some cases has become a recruiting ground for the very forces that we wish to contain.”
Rep. Price also opposed the instruction requiring 72 hours before the bill can be considered. He said “this bill has been a long time in the making . . . it's a thoroughly vetted bill, and the issues in this bill have been thoroughly examined.”
The motion passed by a vote of 258-163. One hundred and seventy-eight Republicans and eighty Democrats voted “aye”. One hundred and sixty-two Democrats, including a majority of the most progressive Members, and one Republican voted “nay”. As a result the House conferees were instructed to insist on a prohibition of the transfer to the United States of terrorism suspects being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison, on a ban on the publication of pictures of the prisoners, and on a requirement that the final version of the bill be made public at least 72 hours before being considered on the House floor.