Obama signs defense bill but rips Gitmo provisions

President Obama on Friday signed the 2015 Defense authorization bill into law but suggested provisions that bar him from closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, infringe on his powers as commander in chief.

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The $585 billion legislation authorizes Defense Department activities for fiscal 2015 and contains hundreds of provisions, including troop pay and benefits, funding for weapons efforts and authority to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

But it was the prohibitions on the Guantánamo detention facility that Obama singled out for scorn, including bans on transferring detainees to the U.S. and constructing new detention facilities on American soil.

In a signing statement, Obama blasted those provisions, arguing that “under certain circumstances” they would  “violate constitutional separation of powers principles.”

“The Guantánamo detention facility's continued operation undermines our national security. We must close it,” Obama said. "I call on members from both sides of the aisle to work with us to bring this chapter of American history to a close.”

Obama stressed in his statement that he has “repeatedly called upon the Congress to work with my administration to close the detention facility at Guantanamo once and for all,” calling it a “national imperative.”

Instead of “removing unwarranted and burdensome restrictions that curtail the executive branch's options for managing the detainee population, this bill continues them,” he added.

The president noted that the $1.1 trillion spending package he signed into law earlier this week contains similar prohibitions and vowed to work with the Congress to lift them.

“The executive branch must have the flexibility, with regard to those detainees who remain, to determine when and where to prosecute them, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests, and when and where to transfer them consistent with our national security and our humane treatment policy.”

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA time for war, a time for peace — and always a time to defend America Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Soleimani killing deepens distrust between Trump, Democrats MORE (R-Ohio) praised the bill and the Guantánamo language, saying the transfer of detainees U.S. soil “would be both dangerous and deeply unpopular with the American people.”

“House Republicans will continue to do all we can to protect our national security and support our men and women in uniform, and look forward to working with the president to do the same,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA time for war, a time for peace — and always a time to defend America Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Soleimani killing deepens distrust between Trump, Democrats MORE said in a statement.

There are around 136 detainees left at the prison, the lowest number since shortly after it opened.

The policy bill Obama signed Friday also authorizes $521 billion in the base discretionary spending for national defense and $64 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

It also contains an array of public land and energy provisions, including designating new national parks and wilderness areas, speeding the permit process for oil and gas drilling, and measures related to energy and minerals.

The leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees negotiated the legislation for weeks in order reach the deal by the end of the year.

This year's negotiated bill was named after Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Sen. Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinThe Trumpification of the federal courts Global health is the last bastion of bipartisan foreign policy Can the United States Senate rise to the occasion? Probably not MORE (D-Mich.), the retiring chairmen of the Armed Services panels.