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Murtha plans hearings to close Guantanamo prison

Story Highlights

• Congressman says, "This is an eyesore to the country"
• He threatens to close detainee prison by cutting funding
• Murtha also to propose measure on troop readiness
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. John Murtha said Tuesday that he planned to hold hearings on closing down the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and threatened to "cut off the money" to make it happen.

"This is an eyesore to the country," the veteran congressman, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee, said of the facility, where about 400 detainees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are kept.

Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said Congress could easily effect the change he seeks.

"We just cut off the money," he said.

The congressman did not give a date for the Guantanamo hearings to begin.

Murtha, a decorated former Marine, also told CNN that he is working on a proposal, first reported in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, that would tie the president's request for billions in additional war funding to current troop readiness levels. (Watch what Bush plans to do Video)

Under Murtha's proposal, if troop readiness levels in the United States were to fall below a certain fixed percentage level, Congress would restrict funding for more troops in Iraq.

Murtha said his proposal is not about cutting off money for troops, but about building up a "strategic reserve" in the military. He called it "diverting funds to things needed in the United States to get troops ready. That's what I'm prepared to do."

Murtha plans to hold a series of hearings on the matter starting January 17.

Murtha was skeptical about President Bush's new Iraq strategy, reported to include an additional 20,000 troops, saying he was concerned that U.S. forces were stretched too thin to provide the added numbers.

"I don't see how that's going to work," he said. "I don't know if he can find them."

Murtha also told CNN that Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, called him about his legislation requiring the president to get congressional approval to increase troop levels in Iraq. (Full story)

Murtha said he is taking a look at the bill, but emphasized that the only way Congress could alter the current policy in Iraq is by placing conditions on spending bills. (Watch how Kennedy would limit Bush Video)

"It's the only method we have of changing direction," he said.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, says Congress could close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by cutting off funding for it.

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