Iowa Senator Tom Harkin was among only a half-dozen senators Wednesday who voted in favor of an effort to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The vote to keep Guantanamo open was 90-to-6. Harkin, a Democrat, says the prison serves as a rallying cry for members of the Taliban and al-Qaida.
"I just believe it’s important that we move ahead aggressively in closing up Guantanamo Bay," Harkin says. "It is essential for our national security and as long as it remains open, it is a recruiting tool for those who wish to do us harm, provides ammunition to our enemies."
The Senate vote denied a request from the Obama administration for $80-million to close the prison. Harkin says the media is widely "misinterpreting" what the vote meant. He says the lopsided vote was essentially about a wrinkle in the timing of the funding, not about Guantanamo itself.
"The money that had previously been put in the bill to close Guantanamo was in a supplemental appropriations bill that expires at the end of September of this year," Harkin says. "There was no way we were going to put that money into closing Guantanamo before that. The president has to come up with a plan, and so the money was fenced off anyway."
Harkin says he voted with the slim minority on this bill because he was afraid the results would be misunderstood. "I thought it would send the wrong message and I think it has sent the wrong message," Harkin says. "People, as I pick up the press and read the headlines it says ‘Congress gave a big rebuke to Obama’ and that is not true. The vast majority of senators here want to close Guantanamo."
He predicts the measure to shutter "Git-mo" will win wide approval when the vote comes up again later in the year. Iowa’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, voted with the majority on the bill.