TOPEKA, Kansas — Sen. Pat RobertsPat RobertsOvernight Finance: Scoop – Trump team eyes dramatic spending cuts | Treasury pick survives stormy hearing Hearing derailed after senator suggests colleague needs Valium Live coverage: Senators grill Trump's Treasury pick MORE (R-Kan.) on Friday vowed to block all legislation in the Senate with a prolonged filibuster if President Obama tries to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States.
A day after Tea Party hero Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzBooker is taking orders from corporate pharmaceuticals Caitlyn Jenner to attend Trump inauguration: report Trump’s UN pick threads needle on Russia, NATO MORE (R-Texas) campaigned with him in Wichita, Roberts threatened to wage a marathon talk session similar to the one Cruz held last year to protest the implementation of ObamaCare.
Roberts made a similar threat back in 2009, when Obama originally signaled he wanted to relocate detainees to the United States. At the time, the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, as well as a maximum-security prison in Obama’s home state of Illinois were being considered to house the prisoners.
Roberts told reporters that he would hold the Senate floor for hours on end if necessary to stop Obama.
“We’re going to bring 179 terrorists to the United States including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?” Roberts said, referring to the detainee accused of masterminding the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Once you get control of the floor you just don’t leave it. Ted Cruz did that with regard to ObamaCare. If necessary, I’ll do it with terrorists,” he said.
Sen. Tom CoburnTom CoburnCoburn: Trump's tweets aren't presidential The road ahead for America’s highways Rethinking taxation MORE (R-Okla.), who is traveling through the state this week on Roberts’s campaign bus, said he would join the filibuster. Roberts predicted he would have broad support from his colleagues.
“I will have help on this. I can see John McCainJohn McCainSenate committee to vote Monday on Tillerson Trump fails to mention Clinton in inaugural address Hillary Clinton under microscope at inauguration MORE there and I can see Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report Graham: Trump would make mistake in not punishing Russia Graham to vote for Trump’s EPA pick MORE there and I can see Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteTen rumored Trump Cabinet picks who didn't get a job Sasse, Perdue join Armed Services Committee Avid pilot among GOP senators joining Transportation committee MORE there and I can see a whole bunch of other people there,” Roberts said.
Obama ordered the closure of the prison camp as one of his first acts as president, but the Congress overrode him by prohibiting the use of federal funds to transfer detainees.
Now the White House is considering going around Congress by using executive power to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo Bay, according to The Wall Street Journal. The president might also veto the annual defense authorization bill, which includes the ban on detainee transfers.
Republicans blasted the idea, warning it could have dangerous consequences.
“Why is the White House even discussing this as we battle a brutal enemy that has beheaded two Americans,” Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) said in a statement. “Bringing dangerous terrorists into the U.S. makes no sense and sends the wrong message to our enemies and allies.”
White House officials questioned the Journal report.
“We do not know what new press reports are referring to when they say the Administration is ‘drafting options’ intended to ‘override a congressional ban,’” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
Still, Hayden noted that the administration had “made clear many times” that it continued “to object to congressional restrictions” on detainee transfers.
“The president has been clear about the administration’s strategy with respect to Guantanamo Bay,” she continued. “To the greatest extent possible and consistent with our national security interests, detainees will be repatriated or resettled, or prosecuted in Federal courts or military commission proceedings.”
But the White House spokesperson also said would “call on members of both parties to work together to ensure that Congress lifts the remaining restrictions and enables the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.”
The escalating partisan fight over Guantanamo could imperil the chances of confirming a successor to Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderTrust Women opposes Sen. Session's nomination Former AG launches redistricting effort to help Dems reclaim power The racism inquisition over Jeff Sessions MORE in the lame-duck session after the election.
The new attorney general would play a major role in any effort to try and convict suspected terrorists in civilian courts.
Holder announced in 2009 that Mohammed would face a civilian trial in New York for the murder of nearly 3,000 people in the 2001 collapse of the World Trade Center.
A year and a half later, the Obama administration reversed itself and announced it would try Mohammed before a military commission in Cuba because of the congressional restriction on moving detainees to the United States. A defense lawyer working on the case told The New York Daily News earlier this year that the military trial may not reach a conclusion until after 2017.
— Justin Sink contributed.