Kansas lawmakers were unified in their opposition Tuesday to President Barack Obama’s plan to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Although Obama didn’t say where the 30 to 60 detainees would be transferred – nor does the 21-page plan he submitted to Congress – the potential sites the Pentagon has studied include Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
“Kansans and those in Fort Leavenworth are against this transfer and are angry at this President who risks their security in forcing this threat upon them,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., in a statement Tuesday.
Roberts also said he would continue to block the nomination of Eric Fanning, Obama’s choice to become Secretary of the Army. Roberts has held up the confirmation of Fanning, who would be the first openly gay head of any branch of the armed forces, over the president’s plans to close Guantánamo and resettle its prisoners.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., called the plan “reckless” and said he remained “committed to blocking the transfer of Guantánamo detainees anywhere in the United States, especially Fort Leavenworth.”
Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., said he had traveled to Guantánamo and said the detainees are treated “exceptionally well.” Some, he said, have declined to be resettled.
“It is delusional to think that any plan the president puts before Congress to relocate radical Islamic terrorists to the U.S, and potentially Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, will make our country safer,” Pompeo said in a statement. “The reality is that this proposal will ultimately put Kansans and Americans in danger.”
“The Statue of Liberty says, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’ ” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., “not ‘your radical Islamic jihadists.’ ”
Obama’s 21-page plan, which was required to be submitted by Tuesday by previous congressional legislation, would transfer 30 to 60 detainees currently at Guantánamo to an unidentified high-security prison in the United States at an estimated cost of $290 million to $475 million.
“With this plan, we have the opportunity finally to eliminate a terrorist propaganda tool, to strengthen relationships with allies and partners, enhance our national security, and most importantly uphold the values that bind us as Americans,” Obama said in a short address minutes after the plan was released.
Obama said his plan would save American taxpayers more than $300 million in the first 10 years after implementation and as much as $1.7 billion over two decades.
Obama acknowledged that the closure plan, which he campaigned on in 2008 and vowed to develop in an executive order in January 2009 two days after taking office, would face stiff opposition in the Republican-controlled Congress, but he asked lawmakers to consider it.
“Given the stakes involved for our national security,” Obama said, “this plan deserves a fair hearing, even in an election year.”
Virtually all Republican members of Congress, along with the party’s current presidential candidates, have opposed moving the Guantánamo detainees to the United States.
Kansans and those in Fort Leavenworth are against this transfer and are angry at this President who risks their security in forcing this threat upon them.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
Other potential sites to house the detainees include a federal prison in Colorado and a navy brig in South Carolina. On Monday, Roberts, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said in a statement that “none of these options are acceptable” arguing the detainees should remain at Guantánamo.
“Our states and our communities remain opposed to moving the world’s deadliest terrorists to U.S. soil,” they said.
James Rosen: 202-383-8014, @jamesmartinrose