Dems seek to lift prohibition on Gitmo detainees to US

House Democrats on the Armed Services Committee attempted Wednesday to lift the restriction on transferring detainees from Guantánamo Bay to the United States, but they were rebuffed by the committee’s Republican majority.

The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), introduced an amendment to strike the provision in the Defense authorization bill that restricted the transfer to U.S. soil, a key step to President Obama’s new push to shutter the facility.

Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) also proposed a measure to strip $61 million from the bill that was included in the authorization bill for the construction of new barracks.

“It continues to be an international eyesore,” Smith said. “We have successfully locked up most dangerous, despicable people in the world. The United States is capable of having a prison to successfully hold them.”

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But Republicans rejected the arguments from Democrats, saying that they would continue to block allowing Gitmo detainees until the president issued a workable proposal for moving the detainees. Smith's amendment was defeated 23-38.

“If the president comes up with the plan that can gain support of American people and gain support of Congress, then that ban can go away,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said.

Smith argued, however, that the restriction on transferring detainees was preventing Obama from presenting the plan that Republicans want to see.

Obama said last month that he was making a new push to close the prison, following up on a pledge he made in the first week of his first term.

He said that his administration would begin working to once again release cleared Guantánamo detainees to Yemen. Of the 86 detainees at the detention facility, 56 are from Yemen.

So far, Congress has not been willing to go along. On Tuesday, the House rejected an amendment in the military construction appropriations bill to prevent the construction of facilities in the U.S. to house detainees. It failed 254-170, with 25 Democrats joining every Republican in support.

The Armed Services Committee Republicans Wednesday gutted Andrews’s proposal to cut funding for new barracks, revising the amendment to remove the funding reduction. It passed on voice vote.

— This story was updated at 2:07 a.m.