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Senate Democrats Pull Funds To Close Guantanamo

David Welna reports on 'All Things Considered'

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A military guard outside Guantanamo's medium-security prison, Camp IV. The Senate Appropriations Committee had included $50 million in a supplemental bill last week for shutting down the military detention facility in Cuba. Jackie Northam/NPR hide caption

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Jackie Northam/NPR

A military guard outside Guantanamo's medium-security prison, Camp IV. The Senate Appropriations Committee had included $50 million in a supplemental bill last week for shutting down the military detention facility in Cuba.

Jackie Northam/NPR

Funding for closing down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba is being removed from the 2009 supplemental appropriations bill, a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide has confirmed to NPR.

The Senate Appropriations Committee had included $50 million in the supplemental bill last week for the Guantanamo shutdown, while stipulating that such funding would become available only once President Obama had submitted a detailed plan for closing the facility and relocating inmates.

Senate Republicans have made the lack of a plan for closing Guantanamo and the prospect of inmates being sent to the U.S. a major point of attack over the past month.

Senate Democrats themselves are divided over whether any prisoners should be sent to the U.S. Their decision to pull the funding just as the Senate was set to begin debate on the supplemental bill reflects a desire to avoid a floor fight over an issue that Republicans have successfully used as a wedge among Democrats and between Congress and the Obama administration.

The House did not include any of the $80 million that Obama requested for closing down Guantanamo in the House-approved version of the supplemental bill.

The decision to pull the funding leaves Obama with three choices. He can veto the supplemental bill to pressure Congress to reverse its position; he can try to move ahead with his goal of closing Guanatanamo by Jan. 22, 2010, using funds from other sources; or he can reverse his decision to close the facility.