Democrats work on detainee compromise

Senate Democratic leaders said Thursday they are developing a compromise that would allow the White House to bring Guantanamo Bay prison detainees into the U.S.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said senior party members are trying to find a way to bend to demands from the Obama administration, which objects to language in the Senate version of the war supplemental.

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The Senate bill would keep detainees off U.S. soil until legislation permitting them to come to the U.S. is approved. The House version of the bill would allow detainees to be shipped to the U.S. while they await trial once Obama has presented a formal plan on how to close Guantanamo.

Neither chamber included funds requested by the administration to close the controversial prison camp.

Durbin said most people realize that if Obama’s goal of holding trials for detainees is to be realized, detainees would have to be brought to the U.S. and incarcerated before trial. He also said other countries will not accept detainees if the U.S. refuses them.

“It's naïve to think that the rest of the world is going to take Guantanamo detainees and we have no responsibility,” he said.

Durbin acknowledged, however, that the talks on a compromise are difficult given the 90-6 Senate vote in favor of language preventing detainees from entering the U.S.

“Some people are dug in, with stated positions and cast votes,” he said. “It makes it more difficult.”

One of those senators is Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who on May 19 said “under no circumstances” would terrorists be allowed to enter the U.S. A few days later, after Obama said some detainees would need to be transferred to the U.S., Reid reiterated his support for closing Guantanamo.

On Thursday, Reid pledged to support the conference report on the war supplemental.

“My position has always been to support the conference report that comes from the conferees,” Reid said. “We’re working on that now.”

Durbin wouldn't describe the ideas being considered, but other party leaders also said a compromise is in the works. Speaking on condition of anonymity, other Democrats said possible ideas include removing the language entirely and revisiting the issue later.

Republicans said they will continue to hold firm against closing the prison.

“Why in the world would Senate Democrats be entertaining the idea of giving the administration millions of dollars for doing this, especially without having seen a plan?” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.