Hoyer Floor Remarks in Support of Closing Guantanamo, Other Amendments to Defense Bill

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“Mr. Speaker, I thank the Gentleman for yielding, and I rise in opposition to this rule, as it fails to make in order several important amendments, including ones from Representatives Speier and Gabbard that would have continued a critical debate on the urgent problem of sexual assault in the military. The previous speaker has pointed out how important an issue this is. If it's such an important issue, it really deserves broader debate in this House, fully. Unfortunately the Rules Committee sought fit not to allow those amendments in order.

“But I want to thank the Rules Committee for making in order the amendment by the Ranking Member, Mr. Smith, to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I have been to Guantanamo. I don't know how many of my colleagues have been there, but I have been to Guantanamo. And Guantanamo is a significant drain on the Department of Defense's resources. There are other reasons to close Guantanamo, which I will speak of, but the numbers speak for themselves.

“It costs us $1.6 million per detainee. That's versus $34,000 for federal prisoners. $1.6 million per detainee. $247 million authorized in this bill to replace temporary facilities at Guantanamo. Overall, $264 million a year to keep this facility operational for 166 people. For every dollar spent on a detainee, we spend one less dollar on our troops in the field. At a time of great fiscal uncertainty, it is astounding that this facility stays open.

“Guantanamo costs us not only in economic might but in moral might, as well. We are a nation of laws, and it is our continued adherence to the Founders’ vision of a lawful society that allows us to lead the world in confronting threats to peace and stability. I urge all of my colleagues to think about the damage Guantanamo's continued operation causes to our national security: as our moral might slips, as terrorists continue to use Guantanamo as a recruitment tool, and as our allies grow leery of cooperating with us - for fear that a transferred detainee could end up at Guantanamo.

“I also urge all of us to remember that hundreds of terrorists – hundreds – have faced justice in civilian courts and are currently serving time in prison in the United States. Among them are Faisal Shazhad, the Times Square bomber; Richard Reid, the shoe bomber; and Zacharias Moussaoui, who conspired to kill nearly 3,000 innocent Americans on 9/11 – all of them in our prisons here. We don't have to worry about these individuals, because our system works. Not a single terrorist, not one or anyone else, has ever escaped from one of our maximum security prisons. Not one.

“Since 9/11, 494 terrorists have been convicted in our civilian court system. In stark contrast, there have been only seven terrorists convicted by the military commissions at Guantanamo. Five of these, by the way, were pleas.

“To quote General Colin Powell from 2010 – quote: ‘We have 300 terrorists' - it's now [more] - 'who have been put in jail not by a military commission but by a regular court system… We ought to remove this incentive that exists in the presence of Guantanamo to encourage people and give radicals an opportunity to say, “you see, this is what America is all about.”’ That's Colin Powell.

“We should be proud of our nation's long history of bringing to justice those who commit crimes that threaten the peace and freedom of innocent people around the world. Guantanamo is a stain on that record. It should be closed. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

“Additionally, let me say there are a few other amendments that I hope members will support. One is an amendment from my friend, Jim McGovern. His amendment says that, as a sense of Congress, that this body should have the right – indeed, the duty – to engage in a debate about the continued path forward in Afghanistan. I urge my colleagues to support that amendment.”