The House and Senate had passed different versions of H.R. 2892, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of Homeland Security. When the two Houses of Congress pass different versions of the same bill, a final version is typically negotiated in a conference between a limited number of members of both bodies, and a conference report is developed. That report then must be passed by both legislative bodies before it is sent to the president to be signed into law. This vote was on House passage.
Rep. Price (D-NC) chairs the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed the House version of H.R. 2892, and was leading support for passage of the conference report. He noted that the report provided $43 billion for the department, and that this was a 7% increase over fiscal year 2009. Price argued that the report “addresses the needs and challenges (the) Department faces. It also represents a considered approach to funding critical domestic security requirements and other core departmental missions within a bipartisan consensus on fiscal responsibility.”
Price then focused on a provision in the conference report dealing with the potential transfer of suspected terrorists and enemy combatants to the U.S. from the prison at Guantanamo Bay. This had become a controversial issue, especially since President Obama had announced that he would be closing the prison by the end of 2009.
Price claimed that “(T)he conference report establishes strict safeguards on the movement of Guantanamo's detainees, and if the administration chooses to address their cases in U.S. courts, this legislation ensures that that will be done with due consideration, planning, and forethought . . . It allows the transfer of a detainee to custody inside the United States only for the purpose of prosecuting that individual and only after Congress receives a plan detailing the risks involved and a plan for mitigating such risks, the cost of the transfer, the legal rationale and court demands, and a copy of the notification provided to the governor of the receiving state 14 days before a transfer, with a certification by the Attorney General that the individual poses little or no security risk.”
Rep. Rogers (R-KY) is the Ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed the House version of H.R. 2892. He said that, although he did not “agree with everything in the conference report, I think it represents a fairly reasonable compromise on most of our homeland security priorities.” He then referenced the provision related to the transfer of Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the U.S., which he and many other Members, especially Republicans, opposed. Rogers argued: “(S)ince the President announced the decision to close Guantanamo some 9 months ago, we have seen . . . no plan, no idea of how to dispose of the detainees remaining there, and no legal rationale for the prosecution, sentencing and incarceration of these terrorists (has been developed) . . . leaving hundreds of suspected terrorists potentially bound for American soil because no one else in the world will let them be brought to their soil.”
Rogers went on to make the argument that there was “no reason why we should afford enemy combatants who have been caught on the battlefield battling American soldiers . . . the same constitutional rights as American citizens or the same due process even as criminal defendants in the civilian courts of the U.S., and I see no reason why these terrorists can't be brought to justice right where they are in Cuba before military tribunals, as we have in the past there.”
The conference report passed by a vote of 307-114. Two hundred and forty-four Democrats and sixty-three Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and eight Republicans and six Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, House approved and sent on to the Senate the conference report containing the final version of the fiscal year 2010 funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security.