The House and Senate had passed different versions of H.R. 2647, the bill authorizing fiscal year 2010 funds for the Defense Department and national security programs. When the two Houses of Congress pass different versions of the same bill, a final version is typically negotiated in a conference between a limited number of members of both bodies, and a conference report is developed. That report then must be passed by both Houses before it is sent to the president to be signed into law.
The final version of H.R. 2647 developed by the House-Senate conference included a provision allowing for the transfer or release of individuals imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. The transfer of these prisoners, possibly to the United States, or their release had become a very contentious matter. President Obama announced early in 2009 that he would close the prison by the end of the year. This had raised concerns about enemy combatants and terrorists being moved to facilities in the U.S. This was a vote on a motion to have H.R. 2647 sent back to the House-Senate conference, and to have the House conferees insist on eliminating any provision providing for the transfer or release of individuals imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.
Supporters of the closing of Guantanamo Bay facility claimed that continuing to keep prisoners there is not consistent with U.S. laws and values. They also said that the bad publicity it was receiving effectively served as a tool for recruiting terrorists. Both former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Sen. McCain (R-AZ) had made statements supporting the idea that the prison had become a recruiting tool.
Republican congressional leaders had been suggesting that President Obama would be endangering American lives by closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, especially if he did so without a plan as to where the detainees would go. House Minority Leader Boehner (R-OH) had argued that the prisoners are “committed to killing Americans and destroying our way of life.” House Minority Whip Cantor (R-VA) had stated publicly: "(M)ost (American) families neither want nor need terrorists around.” Rep. Wolf (R-VA) said he didn't "want to wake up one morning and . . . hear that one of these guys did something."
The counter-argument that had been made to these concerns was that several convicted terrorists and conspirators are already imprisoned in the United States and have been for years, with no security issues, and that those from Guantanamo would be held in highly secure federal “supermax” prisons, from which nobody had ever escaped.
Rep. Tiahrt (R-KS) said that it was part of the "public record" that Democrats want to "transfer or release detainees on American soil with full knowledge that some will be released on our streets." Rep. Edwards (D-TX) responded to Rep. Tiahrt by referencing the argument that the symbolic nature of the prison had become a recruiting tool for terrorists, and claimed that closing it would actually increase the safety of Americans.
The motion was defeated by a vote of 208-216. All one hundred and seventy-four Republicans joined by thirty-four Democrats voted “aye”. All two hundred and sixteen “nay” votes were cast by Democrats. As a result, the language allowing for the transfer or release of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay remained in the conference report authorizing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of Defense.