Senate panel passes bill limiting Gitmo transfers

Senate panel passes bill limiting Gitmo transfers
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The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday narrowly approved a bill that would limit detainee transfers from the Guantánamo Bay detention camp.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteUS, allies must stand in united opposition to Iran’s bad behavior American military superiority will fade without bold national action Five possible successors to Mattis MORE (R-N.H.), passed on a 14-12 vote during a closed markup session. 

The bill would extend and strengthen prohibitions on any transfers or releases. President Obama is seeking to close the prison before he leaves office. If he succeeds he will have fulfilled, albeit belatedly, a 2008 campaign pledge. 

The White House said earlier in the day that Obama would veto Ayotte’s bill if Congress were to pass it. 

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The bill would suspend the transfer of high- or medium-risk terror suspects, and prohibit the president from sending a detainee to any country where a former Guantánamo prisoner had previously been returned, only to reengage in terrorist activities.

It would also repeal an existing law that gives the president authority to transfer detainees, and reinstate a ban on detainees being returned to Yemen, which is currently undergoing a tumultuous and violent political transition.

The bill is also backed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech MORE (R-Ariz.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

"When the administration transfers a Guantanamo detainee, especially those formerly assessed as a high or medium risk for reengagement in terrorism, the onus is on the administration to explain openly to the American people what has changed — particularly when nearly 30 percent of former Guantanamo detainees are suspected or confirmed of reengaging in terrorism," Ayotte said in a statement. 

"It is a simple matter of transparency and honesty with the American people. I look forward to the consideration of our legislation by the full Senate,” she said. 

Some Democrats on the committee added amendments. One by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) would seek to ensure that detainees are treated humanely. 

Another, by Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMcCaskill: Lindsey Graham 'has lost his mind' Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government MORE (D-Mo.), would require a report about the use of Pentagon facilities as terrorist propaganda tools.  

An amendment by Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedPapering over climate change impacts is indefensible Why Democrats are pushing for a new nuclear policy GOP chairman: US military may have to intervene in Venezuela if Russia does MORE (D-R.I.) would allow the temporary transfer of a detainee to a Department of Defense facility in the United States for emergency or critical medical treatment.

—Justin Sink contributed