WASHINGTON--Illinois Republicans were successful on Friday in stripping a provision from a House Defense bill that would have given permission for the transfer to the U.S. of detainees in the Guantanamo Bay, military prison.
The issue is of special importance to Illinois GOP lawmakers because earlier this year the Obama administration moved to buy an underutilized state prison in Thomson, Ill. in part to use to house Guantanamo detainees.
Closing Guantanmo was a central Obama pledge that the president has not been able to keep--a promise made during his campaign on his first day in office. Congress needs to give permission for any transfer of a Guantanamo prisoner to the U.S.
On Friday morning, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) who on Nov. 29 moved to the Senate from the House, had threatened to block the Senate from taking up the Defense bill if it came to the Senate from the House with language in it allowing the prisoner transfer. In the Senate, one senator has the power to stop a bill.
On the Senate floor on Friday night, Kirk noted that this was an "important week" for him in part because "we stopped a House effort this morning to permit...Guantanamo Bay terrorists from being transferred to the Heartland, likely Thomson, Ill. The revised bill prohibits such a transfer."
Kirk "worked with the Illinois GOP on this all morning to get the language changed," said Kirk spokesman Kate Dickens.
In a statement, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) said "Kirk and Schock worked vigorously with House Leadership to ensure the language was changed before it made it to the House Floor for a vote. As early as this morning, the entire Defense Authorization bill was in jeopardy as Illinois Republicans pledged to lead a fight to stop the bill if it was not changed back to current policy prohibiting the transfer of GITMO detainees to the U.S. mainland."