Sunday, June 21, 2009

Follow-up: Fear! Perriello Hides Terrorists Under Your Bed

We are in the midst of quite a stir. Here's the background: three days ago, Thursday, JR Hoeft at Bearing Drift wrote a piece hitting Rep. Perriello for an no vote on an amendment prohibiting funds to close Guantanamo Bay. That night, Aznew responded calling Hoeft's post "patently absurd," and in like manner, I wrote trying to shooting down the emerging Republican memes to the story (1, 2, 3). On Friday, Lowell wrote two posts, the first echoing Aznew's sentiments, the second defending Perriello from a Christian and a national security perspective. AnonymousIsAWoman, in a great post, argued against the fear-mongering, and, the following day, Hoeft pushed back on her blog, to which Aznew again painstakenly replied. Republican blogger Shaun Kenney, in an otherwise good post, picked up AIAW's blog and offered a sleight-of-hand-don't-pay-attention-to-the-real-issue comeback, prooftexting me to partially build his argument against AIAW. Today, Lowell applauds AIAW's post and Aznew's recent post. Although I could have missed some posts, that's just within the Virginia blogosphere! At the state and national levels, the RPV, the NRCC, and the DCCC, somewhat comically, exchanged blows over Perriello and this issue. Phew! Got that?

Although the debate over the closing of Guantanamo is necessary and important, to be sure, I want to refocus the conversation back to the actual amendment vote, hopefully exposing the disingenuous nature of the Republican faux outrage - or is it gotcha-induced giddiness? - against Perriello. Again to recap: Last Thursday, Perriello, joined by 212 mostly Democratic colleagues, voted against Rep. Jerry Lewis' (R-CA) H.Amdt 220 added to HR 2847. Here's the amendment:
An amendment numbered 118 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds to implement Executive Order 13492, issued January 22, 2009, titled "Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities".
ically, Republicans did not want to release funds to shut down Guantanamo Bay, to fund the President's executive order to close the base. The amendment was voted down, 212-213, mainly along party lines, and Republican's jumped on Perriello for being arm-twisted by Pelosi, for casting the deciding vote to bring detainees to Virginia.

Just two days prior, however, the house voted for a war supplemental bill (HR 2346), and it passed, 226-202, also along party lines; Democrats generally supported the supplemental, Republicans generally didn't. There, within the bill, are several important provisions disallowing the release of detainees on US soil. Click this text link, scroll down (about a fifth or a sixth of the way) to Title III: General Provisions, This Act and let's take a look:
(Sec. 30004) Prohibits funds from this or any prior Act from being used to release an individual who is detained, as of April 30, 2009, at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, or the District of Columbia. Prohibits any such release for the purpose of detaining or prosecuting any such individual until two months after Congress receives from the President a comprehensive plan regarding the proposed disposition. Requires the plan to include: (1) the risk to national security posed by the transfer; (2) costs associated with not transferring an individual; (3) the legal rationale and associated court demands for transfer; (4) a certification by the President that any national security risk associated with a transfer has been mitigated; and (5) a certification by the President that the President has certified to the governor and state legislature of a state to which the President intends to transfer an individual that such individual does not pose a security threat to the United States.

Prohibits any funds from being used to transfer or release such an individual to the country of such individual's nationality or last residence, or to any country other than the United States, unless the President submits to Congress, at least 30 days prior to such release or transfer: (1) the name of the individual and the country involved; (2) an assessment of the risk to U.S. national security posed by the transfer or release; and (3) the terms of any agreement with another country for the acceptance of such individual, including any financial assistance related to the agreement. (emphasis mine)

Okay, there is a lot there, and though it's relatively self-explanatory, it's still pretty dense. First, no funds can be used to release Guantanamo detainees onto US soil. Period. If the President, however, wants to prosecute or detain a prisoner on US soil, the President must first submit a plan for approval by Congress, especially assuring, among other things, against threats or risks of security. This supplemental goes further: no funds can be used to release detainees in any other country unless the President runs it by Congress.

Again, the language within the war supplemental bill, voted for by Perriello and Democrats, prohibits the release of detainees into the US. On the other hand, the gotcha-game amendment proposed by Republicans would have only prevented the closure of Guantanamo. The war supplemental bill passed and, of course, the prohibitions therein, although Republicans voted against the bill and its prohibitions.

In a fever of political gamesmanship, however, Republicans - knowing that two days prior Perriello voted to close these possibilities - have tried to create trumped-up charges against Perriello. And, in light of the supplemental, Republicans are now equally accountable to the same charges levied against Perriello. If I wanted to be similarly dishonest, I could say that Republicans, in voting against the war supplemental, voted against prohibitions - thereby either allowing or in favor of - releasing detainees onto US soil.


CWPNRG? said...

Drew, I appreciate the effort, but not quite. Looking closely at the text, we see that the supplemental prohibits: 'funds from this or any prior Act from being used to release an individual who is detained, as of April 30, 2009, at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, or the District of Columbia.'

So it doesn't prohibit the release at all - it just says that none of these funds can be used to release the detainees. This is a half-measure designed only for political cover for endangered rookie incumbents like our fine Representative. It doesn't say anything about funds appropriated in the future, which is what the Lewis Amendment intended to fix. The measure voted on two days prior didn't - in fact, couldn't - touch this act.

So what's the difference between GOP representatives not voting for the war supplemental and Perriello not voting for the Lewis Amendment?

There are larger issues involved in the war supplemental than one section. It's an entire bill, whereas this was one amendment, standing alone, a straight up-or-down vote. It was everything else stripped aside - will we or will we not close Guantanamo Bay? - and Tom Perriello voted to close it. Because of his vote on this amendment, that section of the supplemental is irrelevant.

matt said...

having just read AIAW's post that you highlighted in the first paragraph, i'd like to point out why her's, and others' "outrage" at the supposed 'dis' towards the prison workers is fallacious. wait for it.....prison guards and other prison system workers have absolutely nothing to do with the decision to detain or release prisoners. nobody in their right mind thinks that our prison system can't keep criminals inside their respective jails. it's the morons in power in DC or on some government appointed oversight committee that would screw it up.

unintentionally, or even intentionally, they could release captured batttlefield combatants, onto the streets of America, should they be moved to American prisons. it happens every day with the illegal immigrants who are released back onto the streets.

do you really think that couldn't accidentally happen? newsflash - it already has. prisoners released from gitmo have been captured again on the battlefield. and may i remind you (uh oh, here comes that GOP fear tactic), it only takes somewhere around 17 people with box cutters to kill 3,000. one person, one suicide bomb. you do the math.

Drew said...


You are right, it says these funds, but further, it says funds from any prior act. So no money, whatsoever, can be used for the releasing of detainees. But, to further argue your point, how do you release detainees without accruing expense? Sending planes, transportation, guards, etc. all cost money. No money can be used. This bill, plain and simple, disallows the release of detainees in the US.

This is different than the Lewis amendment which just tried to keep Guantanamo open, via the prohibition of funds to close the base. And, I really don't want to get in a semantic argument over the ambiguous usage of the word "prohibit" in the amendment.

And, yes, this bill doesn't say anything about funds in the future because it is an appropriations bill ... supplementals are inherently spending bills, year-to-year as I understand it. So, next year, there will be another bill, another set of prohibitions against the release of detainees, another vote.

Your point about process is clever, but moot. This was a gotcha amendment, plain and simple, seen especially in the giddiness of the RPV and the NRCC, and conservative bloggers.

If you want to have a debate about Guantanamo, let's have it. But don't use this amendment legislation as a means to discredit Perriello, when before, the GOP voted against the supplemental and the prohibitions against the releasing of detainees.

CWPNRG? said...

Drew, there's no reason not to vote for the amendment. But Perriello voted no. Why? If it's a "gotcha" amendment, all he has to do is vote yes, and the "gotcha" falls through.