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Senate rejects bar to prison upgrade funds

Nov. 17, 2009 at 6:13 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate defeated a Republican attempt Tuesday to block spending to upgrade U.S. prison facilities that may house Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees.

By a 57-45 vote, the chambers defeated a proposal by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., that would have restricted the improvement funds offered as an amendment to a spending bill for military construction and veterans programs, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"If you want terrorists to live here, then vote against this amendment," Inhofe told his colleagues.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who hyped jobs and other economic benefits that would be created by housing fewer than 100 detainees at a nearly empty prison about 150 miles west of Chicago. He also read into the Senate record a letter from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., saying Guantanamo Bay's closure was "in the national security interests of the United States."

"Al-Qaida has repeatedly used the existence of the facility as a recruitment tool," the Cabinet members said of Guantanamo military prison in their letter.

Durbin said Inhofe's amendment wouldn't prevent Guantanamo Bay detainees from being transferred to U.S. facilities, but would block spending federal funds to strengthen security in places such as New York City, where five terrorists considered the planners of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, are expected to go on trial in a civilian court.

"How much sense does that make?" Durbin asked. "If there is the need to upgrade security so they can be tried in a safe environment with no danger to the people of New York City, we want to spend that money."

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