GOP: Obama's Gitmo plan is 'dead on arrival'

GOP: Obama's Gitmo plan is 'dead on arrival'
© Francis Rivera

Republicans on Tuesday blasted President Obama's plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility moments after he proposed it, calling it a "menu of options" and a "press release" instead of a plan.  

"What we received today is a vague menu of options, not a credible plan for closing Guantanamo, let alone a coherent policy to deal with future terrorist detainees," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate's defense authorization would set cyber doctrine Senate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE (R-Ariz.) said.

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"The President has missed a major chance to convince the Congress and the American people that he has a responsible plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," added McCain, one of the few Republicans in the Senate who has said he would consider supporting closing the facility. 

Sen. Tom CottonTom CottonOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Lawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program Senate passes 0B defense bill MORE (R-Ark.) responded: "Simply put: this plan is dead on arrival in the Senate.”

The president's long-awaited plan proposes continuing to transfer eligible detainees and moving the remaining ones — anywhere between 30 to 60 detainees — into a facility in the U.S. 

There are 91 detainees at the facility, with 35 eligible for transfer. Ten are facing military court proceedings, and 46 are currently not eligible for either. 

The plan did not name a facility to transfer the detainees to, instead noting 13 sites that would serve as a "prototype" of facilities needed to house them. Seven of those sites — in Kansas, Colorado and South Carolina — were surveyed. 

Republicans accused Obama of passing the buck to Congress on details.

“What the President submitted today is more press release than a plan," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said.

"More than seven years after he first ordered the detention center at GTMO closed, I find it telling that the White House has either failed to work out these important details or they know, but refuse to disclose them, to the American public," he continued. 

“The absence of a specific recommendation for an alternative location proves that there is no suitable location," added Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsNo. 2 Senate Republican backs McConnell in Trump fight Overnight Healthcare: McConnell warns Senate not to block repeal debate | Insurers knock Cruz proposal | WH tries to discredit CBO | Lawmakers propose .1B NIH funding boost Trump: I’ll be ‘very angry’ if Senate doesn’t pass ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Kan.), whose state has detention facilities that were surveyed by the administration. 

“The plan leaves the details to Congress, which has overwhelmingly and time after time, opposed this action in the first place," he said.

"The President’s so-called plan is for Congress to act. Fortunately for him, we have acted and the President has agreed to our legislation for the past seven years — keep the terrorists in the prison at Guantanamo Bay," said Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.). 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan: Graham-Cassidy 'best, last chance' to repeal ObamaCare Ryan: Americans want to see Trump talking with Dem leaders Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE (R-Wis.) said details on the cost of moving the detainees to a specific location were "required by law."  

"Congress has left no room for confusion," he said. "We will not jeopardize our national security over a campaign promise.”

Both McCain and Thornberry said they would review the plan and hold hearings on the administration's plan, but indicated they did not have high hopes. 

"I have pledged to give the President’s plan a fair hearing, but he makes it impossible to do so when he withholds critical details," added Thornberry. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes 0B defense bill Overnight Health Care: New GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE (R-Ky.) said Senate Republicans would review the plan but added that "since it includes bringing dangerous terrorists to facilities in U.S. communities, he knows that the bipartisan will of Congress has already been expressed against that proposal."

Other Republicans in the House and Senate lined up to slam Obama's proposal.

Some — particularly lawmakers whose states were surveyed as possible locations — argued that bringing terrorists to the U.S. would endanger the safety of local communities.  

"The detainees housed in Guantanamo are the most dangerous terrorists. They should not be housed at the Charleston Naval Brig — adjacent to schools, churches, neighborhoods, and ports," Rep. Joe WilsonJoe WilsonGOP worries as state Dems outperform in special elections Navy official: Budget, readiness issues led to ship collisions Obama left nuclear waste in South Carolina, Trump can clean it up MORE (R-S.C.) said. 

Others argued it would endanger U.S. national security to release detainees, noting that nearly 30 percent of released detainees have either been confirmed or suspected of having returned to the battlefield.

"I believe the President’s plan would increase the terror threat to the United States, and I implore him to focus on winning the war against Islamist terror rather than trying to find new homes for its jihadists," House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said.

And with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continuing to pose a threat, they argued it would be necessary to have a place to detain terrorist suspects outside of the U.S. homeland.  

Rep. Matt SalmonMatt SalmonSchumer tells Sinema he's backing her in Ariz. Senate race Comey fallout weighs on the GOP Conservative activists want action from Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) also argued that creating what some Republicans are calling a "Gitmo North" would not solve any problems. 

"Aside from being illegal, closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp just does not solve any problems," he said. "Bluntly, it won't happen." 

This story was updated at 6:19 p.m.