By Jeremy Herb
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
are joining White House chief of staff Denis McDonough on a trip Friday to Guantánamo
Friday that he was “Headed down to review the situation at Guantanamo Bay
prison” with Feinstein and McDonough. Congressional aides and the White House confirmed the visit.
The senators and top White House aide are headed to Guantánamo as President Obama has restarted his push to close the detention facility after failing to fulfill that promise in his first term.
"Following up the president's May 23 speech, White House chief of staff McDonough is accompanying Sens. Feinstein and McCain to the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay to review the situation there and discuss the steps that we can take with the Congress to meet the president's goal of closing the facility," White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
“We continue to believe that it is in our national interest to end detention at Guantanamo, with a safe and orderly transition of the detainees to other locations," the group said in a statement late Friday.
“We intend to work, with a plan by Congress and the Administration together, to take the steps necessary to make that happen.”
McCain has long been an opponent of the detention facility, and has said he is willing to work with the White House to come up with a solution that can gain the support of both parties.
He has complained that the White House never provided a plan in 2009 when Obama first attempted to shutter the facility.
“He’s never come up with a viable plan,” McCain told reporters last month. “We have already committed to try to work with the president to close Guantánamo. The devil is in the details.”
Feinstein has long been an opponent of Guantánamo, and she was one of the Democrats pressing for Obama to do more in the wake of a hunger strike at the prison that has grown to include more than 100 of the 166 detainees.
Feinstein and Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) wrote to Obama urging him to restart the transfer of cleared detainees and appoint an official to oversee the transfers. Obama said he would do both in a national security speech last month.
Obama still faces stiff congressional opposition to closing the facility. The House rejected an amendment on the floor this week to lift the restriction on spending money for facilities to house Gitmo detainees in the U.S.
The amendment failed 170-254, with all but one Republican voting against it, along with 25 Democrats.
The House Armed Services Committee included $61 million in the Defense authorization bill to build more permanent barracks for troops at Guantánamo, and Democratic efforts to strip the funding failed.
— This story was updated at 8:27 p.m.