GOP Pushback Mounts on Gitmo

Jan 22, 2009 11:02am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: President Obama is facing growing criticism from Republicans over his order to close the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with his decision to fulfill a well-known campaign pledge bringing an early test of his promised bipartisan cooperation.

A group of House Republicans quickly filed a bill that would prohibit federal courts from ordering the transfer or release of Guantanamo detainees into the U.S.

“Closing Guantanamo Bay presents a clear and present danger to all Americans," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are voicing concerns about what happens to the suspected terrorists who are now being detained there.

They cite a recent Pentagon estimate finding that some 61 detainees released from Gitmo have rejoined the fight against the United States and its allies.

House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who was briefed in advance on Obama’s first round of executive orders, is expressing significant concern about the decision regarding Gitmo.

“I think the first thing we have to remember is that we’re talking about terrorists here,” Boehner said Thursday. “Do we bring them into our borders? Do we release them back into the battlefield, like some 61 detainees that have been released we know are back on the battlefield? And do we release them to get back and rejoin this fight?”

He added, “The big concern is, how do you come up with a policy to say, ‘We’re going to close Guantanamo,’ without having a policy in place for what you’re going to do with those that are there?”

Said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va.: “Actively moving terrorists inside our borders weakens our security, raises far more questions than it answers and is the wrong track for our nation. Most families neither want nor need hundreds of terrorists seeking to kill Americans in their communities. We need to have a serious, careful, and realistic national discussion about the ramifications of closing Guantanamo Bay.”

The top Republican on the House Intelligence committee, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, called the move “premature.”

“This is an executive order that places hope ahead of reality — it sets an objective without a plan to get there,” said Hoekstra, R-Mich. “Given the fact that we are talking about trained terrorists and people who have committed acts of mass murder, it would seem the proper course would be to have a plan in place before making this decision.”

Meanwhile, at least one group is criticizing Obama for not acting more swiftly.

“It only took days to put these men in Guantanamo, it shouldn’t take a year to get them out,” said Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents some of the detainees at Gitmo.

“We are proud that President Obama made addressing Guantanamo one of his first acts in office. Yet we are disappointed that he outlined no concrete steps for closing the base and gave his administration an entire year to sort out its plans — meaning that some men could have been detained indefinitely in terrible conditions for eight full years. Surely he could do better,” Warren said.

And here’s guessing not too many other members of Congress will make the offer that Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., did Wednesday.

“Sure, I’d take ‘em,” Murtha told Fox News. “They’re no more dangerous in my district than in Guantanamo.”

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