WASHINGTON — A war funding bill headed to the floor next week would provide the $50 million sought by the Pentagon to relocate prisoners from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the top Democrat in the Senate said Monday.
The administration would be denied the money until it came up with a detailed plan on how to close the Guantanamo detention facility and how to deal with the 240 or so detainees being held there, said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Reid said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, has told him that the measure would not allow money to be spent to bring accused terrorists to the U.S. before the end of the budget year on Oct. 1.
The move by Inouye is sure to spark a lively debate within the ranks of Senate Democrats, some of whom have spoken strongly against bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States.
Inouye said last week he was leaning in favor of granting the Pentagon's request with the proviso it comes up with a plan for what to do with the detainees. He is also likely to provide $30 million sought by the Department of Justice to review the legal status of Guantanamo detainees and to bring their cases to trial.
The House Appropriations Committee has declined to fund either request.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called the $50 million request merely 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."
Gates has testified that about 50 to 100 detainees would be shipped to the U.S.
Republicans are on the offensive in daily attacks on the idea of closing the prison and in criticizing the administration for moving ahead without a plan.
"Closing this facility by an arbitrary deadline without any alternative is irresponsible and dangerous," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "It is unacceptable to the American people and it is unacceptable to an increasing number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle."
Underlying the Guantanamo debate is the suggestion that holding terror detainees in the United States would represent a security threat. Also at issue is what to do with them if they are acquitted at trial.
(This version CORRECTS in lede that Reid sted Inouye addressed issue Monday.)