WASHINGTON – In a rare, bipartisan defeat for President Barack Obama, the Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to keep the prison at Guantanamo Bay open for the foreseeable future and forbid the transfer of any detainees to facilities in the United States.
Democrats lined up with Republicans in the 90-6 vote that came on the heels of a similar move a week ago in the House, underscoring widespread apprehension among Obama's congressional allies over voters' strong feelings about bringing detainees to the U.S. from the prison in Cuba.
The president readied a speech for Thursday on the U.S. fight against terrorism, at a time when liberals have chafed at some of his decisions.
Obama has vowed to close the prison by January 2010, and the Senate's vote was not the final word on the matter. It will be next month at the earliest before Congress completes work on the legislation, giving the White House time pursue a compromise that would allow the president to fulfill his pledge.
But Obama's maneuvering room was further constrained during the day when FBI Director Robert Mueller told a congressional panel that he had concerns about bringing Guantanamo Bay detainees to prisons in the United States. Among the risks is "the potential for individuals undertaking attacks in the United States," said Mueller, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001 and is serving a 10-year fixed term in office.