GOP rep seeks to prevent turning over Guantanamo to Cuba

GOP rep seeks to prevent turning over Guantanamo to Cuba

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee signaled Tuesday that an annual defense policy bill could include a provision that would block the Obama administration from turning over Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to Cuba.

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During the committee’s annual “Member Day,” when lawmakers who aren't on the panel lay out what they would like to see in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Rep. Ted YohoTed YohoThe Hill's 12:30 Report Why global health investments are key to ‘Making America Great’ Overnight Defense: Trump scolds NATO allies over spending | Flurry of leaks worries allies | Senators rip B Army 'debacle' | Lawmakers demand hearing on Saudi arms deal MORE (R-Fla.) suggested a provision to prevent a president from unilaterally returning the land to Cuba.

Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said Yoho raised interesting points.

“I appreciate the gentleman’s suggestions,” he said. “We did have a provision in last year’s NDAA to prevent the transfer of the naval base back to Cuba, but I think the gentleman raises a number of interesting questions about how to strengthen that or make it more permanent.”

The Obama administration has repeatedly denied any intention of giving up the base to Cuba as the president pushes to close the detention facility there.

But President Obama, announcing a trip to Cuba and soon after unveiling his plan to close the prison, sparked speculation that he could turn over the base to Cuba.

The United States has leased the land where the base stands since 1903. Cuban President Raúl Castro has said he wants it returned to his country as part of normalizing relations with the United States.

Yoho proposed to the committee legislation that would require Congress to sign off on any modifications to the lease.

“It’s such a strategic place,” he said.

Yoho introduced a stand-alone bill last year that would prevent returning the property to Cuba, but he urged the committee to include a similar provision the NDAA.

“As I work to move my stand-alone bill, I want to take this time to urge the Armed Services Committee to take similar actions in protecting against this potential for executive action and ensure that the president must come to Congress first,” Yoho said.

The provision in the 2016 NDAA highlighted by Thornberry prevents using funds to close the base, relinquish control of the base to Cuba or modify the treaty that established the lease.

But, Thornberry added, “What we have in law is only for the fiscal year.”