McCain Snubs Republicans, Sides With Obama Administration On Gitmo
President Barack Obama has found himself repeatedly blocked by Congress in trying to close down Guantanamo Bay, but one ally remains: GOP Sen. John McCain.
While the House defense bill which just passed on Friday is yet another example of congressional opposition to Obama’s campaign promise back in 2008 to shutter prison facilities on the naval base, McCain is leading the Senate’s version of the bill in the opposite direction, The Hill reports.
McCain is normally the most stringent critic of White House foreign policy, but when it comes to the prison facilities at Guantanamo, his tune suddenly switches.
Some suspect that the reason for his opposition to Gitmo might stem from his time as a prisoner of war. He was captured in 1967 by the Vietcong during the Vietnam War and tortured for five years. Critics have pointed to his support of Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s bill earlier this year to restrict transfers as a sign of inconsistency with his current position. But McCain, who authored the recent provision alongside Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, said that he has “always been in favor of closing Guantanamo because of the image Guantanamo has in the world, whether it’s deserved or not deserved.”
The Senate Armed Services Committee passed a version of the defense bill which tries to drive a compromise between the Obama administration and its critics.
Current restrictions on transferring prisoners out of the facility are extended, and in exchange, the bill mandates for the White House to provide a plan to Congress for approval detailing how exactly each detainee would be handled, and what status they have if transferred to America. If lawmakers approve the plan, restrictions on transferring detainees to the U.S. would evaporate.
McCain envisions a facility in the U.S. where detainees would be held under the exact same conditions as they are currently in Gitmo.
However, McCain’s collaboration with the president puts himself in immediate tension with colleagues in the Senate, not to mention the House, which passed a version of the defense bill Friday with language making it virtually impossible to close the facilities.
In the meantime, an anonymous government official told AFP in late April that the Obama administration plans to release the last British resident left in Gitmo, along with 10 others, sometime in June. (RELATED: Obama Administration Ready To RELEASE Up To 10 More Gitmo Detainees)
A total of 122 detainees are still in Guantanamo, with 57 cleared for release.
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