By Alexander Bolton - 06/19/14 11:01 AM EDT
Eight Republican senators are blaming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for Congress’s inability to block President Obama’s swap of five Taliban commanders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
In a letter led by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), the senators rebuke Reid for not allowing Republicans to vote on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2014 that would have expressly barred Obama from transferring prisoners from the Guantánamo Bay detention center.
Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Ted Cruz (Texas), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Mike Lee (Utah), John Thune (S.D.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.) also signed the letter.
Instead of an explicit prohibition on transferring detainees from Guantánamo, the Defense authorization bill passed last year merely included a requirement that Obama notify Congress 30 days in advance of any prisoner release.
The administration told Congress of the prisoner swap for Bergdahl only a few hours before it became public, and has since justified the last-minute notice as necessary to safeguard the American POW’s life.
The GOP senators claimed Reid promised a full debate over prisoner transfers on the Senate floor but then rescinded the offer.
“The issue, you added, would ‘need to be resolved on the Senate floor.’ However, you did not follow through on your promise. Instead, you shut down debate and we were not able to include the amendment to prohibit the transfer of Guantanamo detainees,” they wrote.
Reid has repeatedly defended Obama’s decision to trade former senior Taliban commanders for Bergdahl’s freedom. It came a few days after Obama announced most U.S. troops would come home from Afghanistan by the end of this year and all would leave by the end of 2016.
“President Obama as commander in chief acted honorably in helping an American soldier return home,” Reid told reporters earlier this month.
Reid argued it is time to move all suspected terrorists and enemy combatants from the military detention center.
“ Guantánamo has been there far too long, and I think that we should get them out of there as quickly as we can,” he said. “We've been held up from doing that by the Republicans, not wanting any of them to be tried here in the United States, even though our record here is really quite good.”