A vote that would have mandated continued funding to keep the detention center at Guantanamo Bay open indefinitely narrowly failed in the House of Representatives yesterday 212-213. Republicans in favor of the amendment claimed that the loss “paved the way for terrorists to come to the US.”
But the vote was just the latest in a string of efforts by Congress to stall the closure of the facility, which included stripping the funding to close the facility out of the recently passed emergency war funding bill.
After his inauguration, President Obama promised to have the facility closed within a year. But five months later little effort has been made to that end, and the White House even praised Congress for denying them the funds to fulfill the pledge.
At particular issue is what to do with the detainees. Former Vice President Dick Cheney suggested earlier this month that the only alternatives are lifetime detention or mass execution, and the Obama Administration appears to be considering both, though its ideal appears to be to release those detainees to other countries.
That appears to be a difficult proposition, as those countries wonder why the US won’t take any of the detainees itself. Congress is vociferously opposing that, and the administration is left trying to sell it as a possibility to other countries, while assuring Congress it will never happen.
Congressional control over the funding to close the facility gives it a myriad of options to forestall its closure. But while Congress is suddenly finding itself willing to buck the executive branch on the question, one can’t help but wonder where their oversight was while the facility was being created and filled in the first place.