Vermont Senators Split on Gitmo Closure *UPDATED* | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Bernie Sanders

Vermont Senators Split on Gitmo Closure *UPDATED*


Published May 21, 2009 at 10:22 a.m.

By a 90-6 vote yesterday, the US Senate denied Pres. Barack Obama's $80 million request to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba ("Gitmo") and move its roughly 240 occupants to other secure facilities.

Vermont's two-seat senate delegation split on the issue: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) voted to approve the funding, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted with the majority to deny the president's funding request.

Leahy, who has spoken often about closing "Gitmo", is expected to say more later today after Obama delivers a speech on his administration's anti-terror measures.

"He believes it would be a mistake to start negating options before we know what the options are," David Carle, Leahy's spokesman, told Seven Days.

Democrats who opposed Obama say they want more details from the administration regarding how it would close the detention facility.

No word yet from Sanders' camp on why he is now opposed to closing Gitmo, after being a strong supporter of the measure in the past. Earlier this month, Sanders was quoted in the Washington Times slamming the continued operation of Gitmo.

"Gitmo has been proven to be a real disservice to our country and I would like to see it shut down as soon as possible," he said. "We have very violent criminals who are born and raised right here in the USA. I think we know how to handle violent people."

In 2007, Sanders joined Leahy and voted against a Senate resolution blocking Guantanamo detainees from being brought to the United States. Only Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) joined them. The Senate approved the measure by a 94-3 margin.

That said, neither Leahy nor Sanders signed onto previous Gitmo closure bills sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) or Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).

The split vote was noticed by Louis Porter at the Times Argus, who has an excellent write-up in this morning's paper.


Since posting, I've received a statement from Sen. Sanders explaining his vote. Also, Sen. Leahy took to the floor of the US Senate around 12:40 p.m. urging his colleagues to reconsider denying Pres. Obama the funds necessary to close Guantanamo.

Statements below the fold.