US President Barack Obama suffered a rude and overwhelming bipartisan shock in the Senate on Wednesday as Democrats voted with Republicans 90-6 to block the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center and prevent the transfer of detainees to facilities in the United States.
The vote came close on the heels of a similar move in the House a week ago, the defeat underscores strong apprehensions among Obama’s congressional allies over the President’s vow to close the prison by January next and move some detainees to US prisons.
The Senate vote, however is not the final verdict on the matter, as the White House has nearly a month, till the Congress completes work on the legislation, to pursue a compromise allowing Obama to live up to his pledge, the closure of the infamous detention center could result in a steep decline in anti-US sentiment across the Muslim world.
Obama is scheduled to make a speech in Washington later on Thursday outlining the steps needed to be taken to close down the facility and is also likely to press for support for the move.
FBI Director Robert Mueller has voiced concerns over the transfer of detainees to prisons in the US. Among the risks is “the potential for individuals undertaking attacks in the United States,” he said.
Mueller, appointed by President George Bush in 2001, is serving a 10-year fixed term in office.
Speaking after the vote, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, “The president understands that his most important job is to keep the American people safe and that he is not going to make any decision or any judgment that imperils the safety of the American people.”
He added that a presidential commission was still evaluating the destinations where some of the detainees could be sent.