Congress Goes Head to Head with Obama on Guantanamo

Senators scuttle shutdown of 'top-rate' prison camp.

Anti-Guantanamo Bay protesters don prison garb outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 5, 2007.
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The Senate showed the White House Thursday that a veto threat won't stop it from banning the administration from moving prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to the United States for at least one more year.

The amendment, introduced by New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte as part of the annual defense authorization bill, passed 54 to 41 with bipartisan support.

"The top-rate facility at Guantanamo allows for the secure and humane detention of foreign terrorist detainees. With a specially-designed courtroom, it is singularly equipped to safeguard intelligence that is critical to protecting our country," Ayotte said. "The administration may want to close Guantanamo, but the American people do not want foreign terrorists ... brought to the United States."

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The White House Office of Management and Budget released a statement threatening a presidential veto of any defense authorization bill that included language banning prisoners from being transferred back to the United States and labeled Congress's efforts to keep the facility open "misguided."

"If the bill is presented to the President for approval in its current form, the President's senior advisers would recommend that the President veto the bill," the Obama administration said in a statement.

The White House also said that President Obama is committed to finding a place on U.S. soil to house prisoners.

The Government Accountability Office released a report to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein earlier this month highlighting how 166 prisoners could safely be moved from Guantanamo to U.S. detention facilities.

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"This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security," said Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

According to the report, Guantanamo costs nearly $115 million a year to maintain and prisoners could cost the government less if they were held in U.S. facilities. There are currently more than 300 prosecuted terrorists in jails and Feinstein says their presence has not threatened security yet.

"As far as I know, there hasn't been a single security problem reported in any of these cases," Feinstein said.

If prisoners were sent to the U.S., a number of U.S. prisons would have to be retrofitted to comply with laws for housing terrorists.

The report outlined multiple facilities, which could house Guantanamo prisoners including military bases in Charleston, S.C., Miramar, Calif., and Chesapeake, Va.

Obama promised to move prisoners from Guantanamo by Jan. 2010, but Congress has continued to block any effort to close the facility and Obama failed to act on his own executive order he set.

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Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News & World Report. She can be reached at lfox@usnews.com or you can follow her on Twitter @foxreports.