Skip to main content

How MN lawmakers voted on the Guantanamo Bay detainee transfer ban

The U.S. House voted to stop transfers and releases from Guantanamo Bay. Here's how Minnesota's U.S. lawmakers voted.

The slow trickle of detainee releases and transfers from Guantanamo Bay would come to a halt for the rest of President Barack Obama's tenure, under a bill passed by the House Thursday.

If it ultimately becomes law (which seems unlikely), it could mean Obama's 2008 campaign promise to close the military detention facility goes unreached.

Here's how Minnesota's lawmakers voted on the proposal.

As with so many bills now, the vote was basically along party lines. 244 people voted for it – of those, all were Republicans except for 12. 174 people voted against it – all but 4 were Democrats.

Minnesota's lawmakers followed suit, with all eight of our reps voting with their party.

Hundreds of people rounded up from foreign countries during the post-9/11 War on Terror have been sent to the U.S. military prison in Cuba, where they've been held as suspects.

Guantanamo Bay has been roundly criticized by human rights groups for treatment of detainees, including holding prisoners for indefinite periods of time with no trial, stories of interrogators using methods "designed to break" the prisoners, and force-feeding detainees who went on a hunger strike (video of which has been described as disturbing).

Minnesota U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democrat who voted against the bill, also called the facility a waste of money, saying it's using up $445 million taxpayer dollars a year that could be used elsewhere.

But supporters say it's the best way to ensure the safety of the United States.

Republican Tom Emmer (who voted for the bill) said the Obama administration is being reckless with its release and transfers of inmates, arguing some countries they're being sent to don't have the means to keep them from returning to terrorism.

What the bill actually does

The bill doesn't stop transfers or releases forever – only until January of 2017, or until a new National Defense Authorization Act is passed.

For it to take effect, the Senate (which is controlled by Democrats) would have to pass it as well. And Obama would have to sign it – the White House has promised to veto it if it gets that far however.

Wasn't Guantanamo supposed to be shut down?

Obama, while running in 2008, promised to close Guantanamo Bay if he won. That obviously hasn't happened yet, although there's an argument over whether that's his fault or Congress' inaction.

The New Yorker has a great run-down of the attempts to close the prison, dating back more than 10 years – and the pushback (often from the Department of Defense) that so far has made it impossible to get done.

In February of this year Obama put out essentially his final plan to shut down Guantanamo.

It considers three things:

  • Figure out who, of those left, is eligible to be transferred.
  • Decide which ones should be given military trials.
  • And review how much of a threat those who aren't eligible for the two previous options are.

Some of the prisoners would likely be transferred to facilities in the U.S. as their ultimate fate is determined.

But as Politifact says, some Republican lawmakers immediately announced they would block it, including Pat Roberts from Kansas who put this on Twitter.

Still, of the 91 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay at the time Obama announced the plan, 30 have since been sent elsewhere.

Two of the detainees that were freed this year however returned to fighting, Reuters reported. The number of Guantanamo detainees suspected to have returned to fighting after being released by the Obama administration stands at 11 – that's compared to 113 of the 532 detainees released under the Bush administration, Reuters said.

That was a concern for the bill's author, Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana, who according to the Huffington Post argued Obama is simply trying to fulfill a campaign promise without considering the safety of Americans.

Guantanamo by the numbers

Nearly 900 detainees have been held at Guantanamo Bay since it opened in Cuba in 2002.

Of those, most have been transferred elsewhere – 147 by the Obama administration, and more than 500 by the George W. Bush presidency.

As of Feb. 23, 2016, there were 91 detainees left at Guantanamo Bay, the White House said. That number has since gone down to 61 detainees, the Close Guantanamo website says.

That came after the Obama administration sent 15 detainees – the largest single transfer ever – to the United Arab Emirates in August, the Washington Post reported.

Human Rights Watch says nine people have died while in custody, six of them believed to be by suicide. And a total of 15 detainees under the age of 18 have been held there.

Next Up

mpd suspect 12.3.21 - 1 - CROP

MPD releases photos of shooting suspect, asks for public's help

The man is wanted in connection with a fatal shooting that happened Wednesday evening.

redmons popcorn colbert 2

Support grows for Redmon's Popcorn after shop's sudden closure

The county also commented on the situation, saying it hopes to help owner Zack Redmon.

prior lake high school

Prior Lake HS investigating another 'racist' video involving student

The principal said the social media video was reported to them this week.

Screen Shot 2021-12-03 at 3.08.27 PM

Walz: Minnesota has secured 1 million rapid, at-home COVID tests for kids

It comes as the delta variant continues to surge in Minnesota, and the omicron variant might follow.

boundary waters

Forest Service limiting permits to BWCAW due to damage, overcrowding

Visitors have been cutting down trees and have been forced to compete for campsites.

police lights

Lockdown update: Armed man threatened to go to Kimball High School

A high school and elementary school near St. Cloud went into lockdown as a precaution.

chaska sewer

People in Chaska are flushing the wrong crap down the toilet

Water and sewer crews in Chaska have had to clean the same pump four times in the past seven days.

Brian O'Neill

Matthew Coller: What if the Vikings didn't have Detroit?

The Lions have been like two freebies on the Vikings' schedule the past three seasons.

water drain

MN will get $116M for water projects as part of infrastructure package

Nationwide, $7.4 billion will be distributed for projects next year.


3rd teenage death from COVID-19 reported in Minnesota

All three of the teenage deaths have occurred in the past three months.

crowne plaza hotel minneapolis mn

Former downtown Minneapolis Crowne Plaza to become boutique hotel

The hotel closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and never reopened.


Officials have not found a link between the St. Cloud suspect and the Islamic State

Officials say they haven't found a link between the suspect and the Islamic State terror group, noting he appears to be a lone attacker at this point.

What Minnesota's U.S. lawmakers have said about Trump's immigration order

What Minnesota' U.S. lawmakers have said about Donald Trump's executive order restricting travel and refugees.

U.S. House members vote to block request for President Trump's tax returns

Here's how Minnesota's U.S. House representatives voted.

Minneapolis will try for $15 minimum wage – right after lawmakers moved to block it

The city is starting the new minimum wage process hours after state lawmakers passed a bill to block them from doing just that.

No more prison time for one of MN's ISIL suspects – 30 months, 10 years for others

Three of the 11 Minnesota men charged with ISIL-related crimes were sentenced Monday.