May 5th, 2009
05:00 PM ET
5 years ago

Harkin supports Gitmo closure funding

A day after House Democrats rejected President Obama's funding request to close down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a senior Senate Democrat said he and other key senators may still support the president's request.
A day after House Democrats rejected President Obama's funding request to close down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a senior Senate Democrat said he and other key senators may still support the president's request.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A day after House Democrats rejected President Obama's funding request to close down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - arguing the administration hasn't presented its plan for moving the prisoners - a senior Senate Democrat said he and other key senators may still support the president's request.

"The president has already said he's going to close it down, " said Sen. Tom Harkin, "and we ought to put the money there to continue on the pathway and get it done before the year is out."

The Iowa senator also dismissed Republican concerns that the detainees now at Guantanamo cannot be safely housed in federal prisons in the United States - if that's what the administration proposes - and said he'd welcome them in Iowa if his state had a maximum-security prison.

"I never could understand why people are afraid of these people being in jail. It's like, they can't go anywhere," Harkin said. "Do they think they're going to create some activity outside the prison? I mean, that never made sense to me. If they're in jail, they're in jail."

Republican leaders have urged the administration to abandon its announced policy to close the prison until it has developed a plan to deal with the prisoners.

"The American people want to keep the terrorists at Guantanamo out of their neighborhoods and off of the battlefield," GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said in a floor speech Monday, pressing the president to keep Guantanamo open for now.

While congressional Democrats have not made a final decision about including $80 million to close Guantanamo in this year's supplemental spending bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry, said he would meet soon with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to settle on a plan.

Reid urged Republicans to curb their criticism and let the president develop a plan to close the prison by January 2010.


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