Republicans Try To Make Gitmo Closure Impossible, Obama Threatens To Kill Defense Budget
The Obama administration has a history of threatening to veto bills which stand to prevent Guantanamo Bay’s closure. This time around, he may make good on his word by killing the defense budget bill.
Obama is far more serious about legislation blocking attempts to shut down the prison facility because of the coming administration change following the election in 2016. Over several years, heavy-handed rhetoric from the White House against defense budget bills sneaking in language to keep Gitmo full of prisoners was part and parcel of the yearly process, resulting in various concessions from Republicans.
However, the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) markup of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) may actually incur Obama’s veto, in an attempt to force Republicans to back down on Gitmo, Defense One reports.
“This Administration has repeatedly objected to statutory restrictions that impede our ability to responsibly close the detention facility and pursue appropriate options for the remaining detainees,” White House spokeswoman Jen Friedman said in a statement to Defense One.
Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, ranking member at HASC, tried to remove sections 1036, 1037, 1038, and 1039, which effectively ban the closure process. Republicans batted down Smith’s attempt immediately with a voice vote.
NDAA includes sections designed to prevent the transfer of any Gitmo detainees to a combat zone, a term borrowed from the IRS which includes several past recipient countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, NDAA would block any funds from being used to move detainees over to the United States for any reason. It would also prevent Obama from ending the lease of the naval base in Cuba where the prison facilities exist.
Obama is rushing to empty the prison of 57 detainees who have been cleared for transfer out of a total of 122. In late April, a U.S. official stated that the administration plans to release up to 11 prisoners in June, including the last British resident remaining, Shaker Aamer. (RELATED: Obama Administration Ready To RELEASE Up To 10 More Gitmo Detainees)
Sending 57 out of the prison would leave just 65. The White House hopes Republicans at that point would start to buy the fiscal argument that it doesn’t make sense to pour countless millions into a facility with only 65 prisoners left.
When Obama is ready to make his move, Congress will receive a 30-day notice.
The battle over NDAA, which is likely to appear on the House floor on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, may be the final clash between the administration and Congress over Gitmo.
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