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Public Statements


Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, there now appears to be a wide bipartisan agreement in the Senate that closing Guantanamo before the administration has a plan to deal with the detainees there was a bad idea. Senators will make it official today with their votes.

For months, we have been saying what Senate Democrats now acknowledge: that because the administration has no plan for what to do with the 240 detainees at Guantanamo, it would be irresponsible and dangerous for the Senate to appropriate the money to close it.

I commend Senate Democrats for fulfilling their oversight responsibilities by refusing to vote to provide any funding to close Guantanamo until the administration can prove to the American people that closing Guantanamo will
not make us less safe than Guantanamo has. Those of us in Congress have a responsibility to American service men and women, risking their lives abroad, and to citizens here at home. Congress will demonstrate its seriousness about that responsibility when it votes against an open-ended plan to release or transfer detainees at Guantanamo.

The administration has shown a good deal of flexibility on matters of national security over the past few months: on Iraq, for example, in not insisting on an arbitrary deadline for withdrawal; on military commissions, by deciding to resume their use; on prisoner photos, by concluding that releasing them would jeopardize the safety of our service men and women; and on Afghanistan, by replicating the surge strategy that has worked so well in Iraq.

I hope the administration will show more of this flexibility by changing its position on an arbitrary deadline for closing Guantanamo. Americans do not want some of the most dangerous men alive coming here or released overseas, where they can return to the fight, as many other detainees who have been released from Guantanamo already have.

Some will argue that terrorists can be housed safely in the United States based on past experience. But we have already seen the disruption that just one terrorist caused in Alexandria, VA. The number of detainees the administration now wants to transfer stateside is an order of magnitude greater than anything we have considered before. It is one thing to transfer one or two terrorists--disruptive as that may be--it is quite another to transfer 50 to 100, or more, as Secretary Gates has said would be involved in any transfer from Guantanamo.

In my view, these men are exactly where they belong: locked up in a safe and secure prison and isolated many miles away from the American people. Guantanamo is a secure, state-of-the-art facility, it has courtrooms for military commissions. Everyone who visits is impressed with it. Even the administration acknowledges that Guantanamo is humane and well run. Americans want these men kept out of their backyards and off the battlefield. Guantanamo guarantees it.

The administration has said the safety of the American people is its top priority. I have no doubt this is true, and that is precisely why the administration should rethink--should rethink--its plan to close Guantanamo by a date certain. It should have focused on a plan for these terrorists first. Once the administration has a plan, we will consider closing Guantanamo but not a second sooner.

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