President Obama's hopes of closing Guantánamo, which were already gravely wounded by his inability to meet his self-imposed deadline of a year for the prison's closure, now appear to have been killed off by lawmakers in Congress.
Although the House Armed Services Committee was happy to authorize, by 59 votes to 0, a budget of over $700 billion for war ($567 billion for "defense spending" and $159 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) for the fiscal year beginning in October, lawmakers unanimously saw through -- and turned down -- a fraction of this budget for what the administration had labeled a "transfer fund" -- money intended to close Guantánamo and buy a new prison in Illinois for prisoners designated for trials or for indefinite detention without charge or trial.
The administration had attempted to hide its intentions behind this vague wording, because senior officials were acutely aware of ferocious opposition in Congress to the closure of Guantánamo. Fueled by opportunistic Republicans and backed by cowardly Democrats, Congress had only been prevented at the last minute from passing an insane law last year, which would have prevented the administration from bringing any prisoner to the U.S. mainland for any reason (even to face a trial) and had only relented in October, allowing prisoners to be brought to the U.S. mainland for trials, but not for any other purpose.
Despite this, the House Armed Services Committee is now trying to withdraw from even this concession to the administration's aims, including, in a summary of the bill, a prohibition on using even the tiniest fraction of the war budget (around $350 million) to buy a new detention facility. As Spencer Ackerman explained in the Washington Independent:
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