Lawmakers Spar Over Closing Guantanamo Prison

Republicans are trying several tactics to prevent detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from reaching the United States, introducing legislation aimed at stopping the transfer of terrorists and offering amendments to an emergency war funding bill to deny funding for closing the facility.

Republican leaders accuse President Obama of endangering American lives by calling for Gitmo to be closed without a plan as to where the detainees will go next.

Several GOP lawmakers on Thursday introduced the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act, which prohibits the Obama administration from transferring or releasing any suspected terrorists at Guantanamo to any state without expressed approval from the state's governor and legislature. The legislation also demands the administration certify to Congress that certain requirements have been met.

"The world did not suddenly become safe in January 2009. There are still terrorists around the world who are committed to killing Americans and destroying our way of life. A number of those terrorists are being held at the prison in Guantanamo Bay right now," said House Minority Leader John Boehner. "If the administration is allowed to proceed, they won't be there for long. In fact, they may be right here, in the United States."

As Boehner spoke, the House Appropriations Committee began debating a $96.7 billion emergency spending bill to end the war in Iraq and pay for operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Not included in the legislation, which passed the panel on Thursday afternoon, is funding to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, D-Wis., said the Obama administration has yet to submit a "concrete" plan on how to handle the detainees, so its request for cash has not been incorporated.

But that didn't stop Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., from trying unsuccessfully to include an amendment in the spending bill to ban funding to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

Wolf said he didn't "want to wake up one morning and on WMAL (radio) news hear that one of these guys did something."

The bill did include an amendment offered by Obey to require Obama to give Congress a "comprehensive plan" explaining the future of the detainees and the prison as well as a "detailed analysis of the total, estimated direct costs of closing the detention facility. 

Obey tried to offer a "hybrid" amendment with Wolf, but Wolf rejected it, calling it "weak." 

"It allows (Attorney General) Eric Holder to do whatever he wants," Wolf said.

On a party line 21-36 vote, the committee also rejected an amendment by Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., who proposed preventing any detainee from entering the United States 

"Do you want the terrorists in your hometown?" Tiahrt asked. 

Tiahrt said the government frequently tells people to wear their seatbelts and wash their hands to stay clear of H1N1 flu, and a vote for his amendment would also bolster safety.

Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, countered Tiahrt, calling his assertion a "false argument." Edwards, who represents Fort Hood in his central Texas district, said that closing Gitmo could increase the safety of Americans.

"Every day that (Guantanamo Bay) remains open, it remains a recruiting tool for terrorists," Edwards said.

After the failed vote, Tiahrt said that it's now "public record" that Democrats want to "transfer or release detainees on American soil with full knowledge that some will be released on our streets."

Tiahrt also introduced the No Welfare for Terrorists Act of 2009, which prohibits any detainee from Guantanamo Bay who is released into the United States from receiving federal benefits such as food stamps or welfare. 

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair suggested last month that the U.S. would likely give government assistance to detainees released in the U.S. "to start a new life," the Kansas lawmaker noted.

"I know my constituents in Kansas overwhelmingly oppose allowing these individuals to be brought here. I will continue fighting efforts of the Obama administration and Democrats who want terrorist detainees to move to America," he said.

As House lawmakers bickered, Holder testified in the Senate that the administration doesn't "have any plans to release terrorists."

Holder has arranged for other nations to take 30 of the remaining 240 detainees now held at Gitmo. Pressed on whether he would allow people with terrorist training into the country, Holder said, "With regard to those who you would describe as terrorists, we would not bring them into this country and release them, anyone we would consider to be a terrorist."

He added the government has no plans to release anyone considered a terrorist in a foreign country, either.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said if the United States could find places to house some of the prisoners both at home and abroad, it is plausible to close the facility by January, as proposed by Obama. 

"But they're not all going to be released, obviously. There are people there that need to be detained and need to be tried on criminal cases. The exact number, what proportion is unknown. That review is going on now. But that's a good goal. And if there's a reasonable level of cooperation from other countries and if we can find some states that are willing to take some of those prisoners, it's achievable," he said.

The Department of Justice has requested $60 million in fiscal year 2010 to pay for the cost of reviewing the cases of each detainee, including the price of transporting, prosecuting and imprisoning them. Those numbers are in addition to the money that the Defense Department has requested to fulfill the president's executive order to close the facility.

While the Republicans argue that bringing detainees to the U.S. will decrease safety, Salon magazine pushed back by publishing a partial list of Muslim terrorists who have been tried and convicted in U.S. civilians courts and are imprisoned inside the U.S. They include Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who plotted the first World Trade Center bombing and is in prison in Butler, N.C.; Zacarias Moussaoui, the Sept. 11, co-conspirator, and shoe-bomber Richard Reid, both of whom are in the Supermax prison in Florence, Colo.

FOX News' Chad Pergram, Mike Levine and Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.