Senate Democrats threw cold water on President Obama's plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center Tuesday, pulling money for the closure from a $91 billion war spending request and publicly opposing the transfer of any detainees to U.S. soil.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats not only oppose the release of detainees into the United States but also oppose the transfer of detainees to U.S. prisons.
"We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States," he said, adding: "Part of what we don't want is for them to be put in prisons in the United States. We don't want them around in the United States."
On top of that, Senate Democrats decided to pull $80 million from the war spending request -- money Obama had requested to close the detention facility by Jan. 22, 2010.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley later walked back part of Reid's statement.
"He's not going to do anything until we get a plan from the president." Manley said. He said "the leader is leaving the door open to detainees being transferred to American prisons, should the administration put forward a plan to do so."
Reid's comments nevertheless revealed how uneasy Democrats are with the yet-to-be released details for a closure plan. When asked about the change in tone, a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide said, "Members of the caucus were sick of getting walloped by Republicans over this phony, made-up issue."
Democrats, according to the aide, "had been looking for signals from the White House to provide some cover on the issue, and it didn't come."
Senate Democratic leaders made the decision last night, according to Manley, to strike the $80 million from the war spending bill after a discussion with the White House.
"They did not object," Manley said of White House officials.
Democratic leaders informed the White House that they would withhold funds for closing Guantanamo until the administration presents a detailed plan for its closure.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said he will present an amendment this week that will "prohibit all funds in the supplemental and all future funds" for the closure of Gitmo until the White House presents the plan.
The current bill Inouye crafted in his committee gives the Department of Justice $30 million for its part, including funds for investigating Bush-era interrogation policy, and fences off the remaining $50 million for the Pentagon pending a plan.
The House withholds all funding in its version of the supplemental bill.