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Democrats turn back request for $50m to move terror suspects

Opponents don't want Guantanamo prisoners in US

Associated Press / May 5, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Amid complaints that terror suspects could be brought to the United States, House Democrats yesterday rebuffed the Obama administration's request for $50 million to relocate prisoners from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

When lawmakers unveiled a bill to pay for military and diplomatic efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan through the fall, the money to implement President Obama's executive order to shut down the prison within a year was missing from it. However, money could be transferred later - without a politically challenging vote - if it were needed to move the detainees.

The bill, which was released to key lawmakers, registers about $11 billion more than Obama's $83.4 billion request, reflecting additional money for procurement of cargo plans, armored combat vehicles, helicopters, and other items.

Funding for foreign aid accounts would increase to about $10 billion, said a House aide briefed on the bill, including money to combat AIDS.

Last week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told lawmakers that the $50 million request for relocating the detainees was simply a "plug in the budget" that was just "a hedge that would allow us to get started if some construction is needed to be able to accommodate those detainees."

The Pentagon has not said how many of the 240 or so detainees would be transferred to the United States or where they would be held. Gates has estimated that 50 to 100 detainees would be shipped to this country.

Top Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have suggested that holding terror detainees in the United States would represent a security threat.

"The American people want to keep the terrorists at Guantanamo out of their neighborhoods and off of the battlefield," McConnell said. He urged Obama to reconsider his timeline for emptying Guantanamo Bay.

Obama's request, including money to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, would push the costs of the two wars to almost $1 trillion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the Congressional Research Service