WASHINGTON — Kansas' two U.S. senators are blocking 10 of President Barack Obama's nominees for senior administration posts at the Pentagon and Justice Department in protest over a proposal to house Guantanamo detainees at the Fort Leavenworth prison.
The list of blocked nominees includes a fellow Republican member of Congress – Obama's pick for Army secretary, Rep. John McHugh of New York.
Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both R-Kan., said Thursday that they are prepared to block the appointments until they get answers from the White House about the proposal. And they said they want Leavenworth taken off the list of potential relocation spots.
The senators were reacting to reports that the administration is eyeing the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Leavenworth and a soon-to-be-shuttered state maximum security prison in Michigan as possible places to establish a heavily guarded site to hold the 229 suspected al-Qaida, Taliban and foreign fighters now jailed at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
Officials outlined the plans earlier this week on condition of anonymity because the options are under review, and the White House has not confirmed the proposal.
The plan is the latest effort to comply with President Barack Obama's order to close Guantanamo by Jan. 22, 2010.
Administration officials said the Leavenworth site is under consideration because it is already a hardened high-security facility that could be further protected by the surrounding military base.
Complaining that they've gotten no explanation from the White House about the plans, Brownback added, "if we're not going to get any cooperation, we're not going to give any cooperation. We're going to hold these up until we get the answers that we need."
Roberts said they believe that blocking the nominees was the only way they would get a response.
"The best answer for both of us, and we both agree, is that Leavenworth is off the table," said Roberts.
Other nominations being blocked include Joseph Westphal, who is up for undersecretary of the Army, and former Texas State Rep. Juan Garcia as assistant secretary of the Navy.
Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell said he had no comment on the matter.