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Harkin: Some in Senate may pursue funding to close Gitmo

  • Story Highlights
  • Tom Harkin: Some senators will push to fund closing of Guantanamo Bay
  • House Democrats on Monday turned down president's funding request
  • Harkin dismisses GOP concerns about housing detainees on U.S. soil
From Ted Barrett
CNN Congressional Producer
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A day after House Democrats rejected the president's funding request to close down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a senior Senate Democrat said he and other key senators may support the request.

Sen. Tom Harkin said he would welcome detainees in Iowa if the state had a maximum security prison.

"The president has already said he's going to close it down," said Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, "and we ought to put the money there to continue on the pathway and get it done before the year is out."

House Democrats said they would not approve any money until President Obama has presented a detailed plan for how the shutdown would be handled.

Harkin also dismissed Republican concerns that the detainees now at Guantanamo cannot be safely housed in federal prisons in the United States -- if that's what the administration proposes -- and said he'd welcome them in Iowa if his state had a maximum security prison.

"I never could understand why people are afraid of these people being in jail. It's like, they can't go anywhere," Harkin said. "Do they think they're going to create some activity outside the prison? I mean, that never made sense to me. If they're in jail, they're in jail."

Republican leaders have urged the administration to abandon its announced policy to close the prison until it has developed an acceptable plan to deal with the prisoners.

"The American people want to keep the terrorists at Guantanamo out of their neighborhoods and off of the battlefield," GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said in a floor speech Monday, pressing the president to keep Guantanamo open for now.

McConnell also is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he will meet soon with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to settle the question of whether to include the $80 million Obama requested to close Guantanamo in this year's supplemental spending bill.

Reid called on Republicans to curb their criticism and let the president develop a plan to close the prison by January 2010.

All About U.S. Senate Committee on AppropriationsGuantanamo BayTom HarkinMitch McConnell

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