Advocating on Behalf of the American Military and Defense on the War on Terror
Got this e-mail today from Josh Holley, the Republican spokesman for the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. It appears Congressman Jack Murtha is backing down on closing Gitmo -- for now!

NOTE: In anticipation of a vote on Murtha's Guantanamo amendment, House Republicans sharpened their rhetoric and circulated a paper today warning that efforts to shutter the facility would "lead to the importation of dangerous terrorists into American communities." U.S. detention centers, according to the GOP paper, would become "prime targets" for terrorist attacks. Republicans also rang alarm bells that moving the terrorists to facilities in the United States would "create an opportunity for these dangerous enemies to recruit and disseminate their terrorist skills" and would "increase the threat of an attempted escape and the danger of harm to American civilians if there were such an escape."

Murtha Mulls Delaying Vote On To September

House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., is strongly considering postponing debate on a controversial amendment to the FY08 Defense appropriations bill that would close the U.S. military's detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Though Murtha's spokesman said no firm decision has been made, the most likely vehicle for the amendment would be the $141.7 billion FY08 war supplemental spending bill, set for debate in September. At presstime today, the House still was expected to take up the $459.6 billion Defense spending measure before departing for the August recess. The spokesman would not comment on why Murtha may opt to delay debate on Guantanamo, although several House aides said Murtha had been gauging support for the amendment among Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee.

The Armed Services membership includes several moderate and conservative Democrats, as well as many freshmen who are GOP targets for the 2008 election. One House Democratic aide said that many Armed Services members are concerned about voting to close Guantanamo before deciding where to relocate the terrorist suspects now housed there. Another Democratic aide said it would be a "tough vote" before the August recess, particularly as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launches an advertising campaign asserting the party's strength on national security and other matters. "Murtha is on the fence," this aide said. "I think he wants to offer the amendment but they realize that this would put some vulnerable Dems into a difficult position."

A House Republican aide acknowledged that the Guantanamo amendment would be a "great vote" to use against Democrats in the next election. "Poll numbers show most people don't support sending terrorists to American soil," the aide said. A CNN poll released in June indicated that 46 percent of people want to keep the prison open, while 45 percent would like to see it closed and the prisoners transferred somewhere else. In anticipation of a vote on Murtha's Guantanamo amendment, House Republicans sharpened their rhetoric and circulated a paper today warning that efforts to shutter the facility would "lead to the importation of dangerous terrorists into American communities." U.S. detention centers, according to the GOP paper, would become "prime targets" for terrorist attacks. Republicans also rang alarm bells that moving the terrorists to facilities in the United States would "create an opportunity for these dangerous enemies to recruit and disseminate their terrorist skills" and would "increase the threat of an attempted escape and the danger of harm to American civilians if there were such an escape."

Both Murtha and Rep. James Moran, D-Va., have been pushing for months to close the prison, which they say harms the U.S. reputation around the world. In March, Moran succeeded in passing by a 220-208 margin a weaker amendment to the FY08 defense authorization bill that would require the Defense Department to study the current capacity of U.S. military facilities to hold and try detainees now held at Guantanamo. Fifteen Democrats -- including three members of the House Armed Services Committee -- voted against that amendment.

-- by Megan Scully