The Senate voted Wednesday to block funding for President Obama's plan to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, deciding overwhelmingly to delay funding until the administration details what will be done with the 240 detainees being held there.
The 90-6 vote came one day after Senate Democrats said they would not more forward with plans to close the prison until they had a comprehensive plan to deal with the detainees. Democrats have generally supported the notion of closing Guantanamo, but party leaders appear undecided on how that should play out and Republicans have criticized the plan as jeopardizing national security.
Earlier Wednesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller told a House panel that he is concerned detainees might support terrorist activities if they are brought to the U.S. when Guantanamo is closed.
"The concerns we have about individuals who may support terrorism being in the United States run from providing financing to terrorists, radicalizing others, the potential for individuals undertaking attacks in the United States, all of those are concerns," Mueller told the House Judiciary Committee.
The FBI chief said some of the detainees could pose a threat even if they were held in maximum security prisons in the United States. Citing the bureau's experience with gangs, Mueller said imprisoned gang members often control gang activities despite being confined to a cell.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs rejected the notion that Obama would do anything to endanger Americans.
"The president understands that his most important job is to keep the American people safe, and that he is not going to make any decision or any judgement that imperils the safety of the American people," Gibbs said at an afternoon press briefing.
He said Obama has not yet decided where some of the detainees will be transferred, adding that task force members are still reviewing options.
On Wednesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ruled out "releasing" any detainees into the U.S., but did not elaborate on whether that included bringing detainees to trial in the U.S. and having them serve prison sentences here.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has said 347 detainees are already serving sentences in U.S. prisons, and Gibbs noted that as many as 800 people have been detained at the prison since it was opened by the Bush administration.
Obama signed an executive order soon after taking office to close the Guantanamo Bay facility by January, saying it has hurt the image of the U.S. and negatively impacts national security. Last month, he asked Congress to include $80 million to close the prison in an appropriations bill that will fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gibbs said Wednesday that the president realizes lawmakers need and deserve more information before appropriating millions to close Guantanamo and transfer prisoners.
Obama is scheduled to detail some of the decisions that have been made about closing the facility and discuss other national security issues in an address Thursday morning.
But Gibbs noted that the courts have already ordered some of the detainees to be transferred, adding that one former detainee was moved to France on Friday because a federal judge ruled in 2008 that there was insufficient evidence to support the detainee's detention.
Meanwhile, a federal judge ruled Tuesday evening that the United States may continue to hold some Guantanamo Bay prisoners indefinitely without charging them.
U.S. District Judge John Bates said Congress gave the president the authority to hold anyone involved in planning, aiding or carrying out terrorist acts in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But he disagreed with the Justice Department's assertion that anyone who "supported" enemy forces could be similarly detained.
ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz said the decision goes against the Constitution's prohibition on detaining a prisoner indefinitely without filing charges.
From NPR staff and wire reports