Senate proposal to close Gitmo will face stiff opposition

Senate proposal to close Gitmo will face stiff opposition
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The Senate Armed Services Committee unveiled on Thursday a proposed pathway to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and bring detainees to the U.S., setting up a fight with the House, which sharply disagrees. 

The Senate panel passed an annual defense bill that allows the administration to close the facility and transfer detainees, if it provides a plan Congress approves of.

At the same time, the House is due to pass a defense bill on Friday that would extend current restrictions, as well as add additional ones, on any detainee transfers from Guantánamo. 


The Republican-controlled chamber also rejected a Democratic amendment on Thursday evening to close the facility by 2018. 

The Senate bill extends the current restrictions on detainee transfers but would require a plan from the Defense secretary that details a case-by-case determination on the disposition of each current detainee. 

That would include the legal challenges of bringing them to the U.S. and additional authorities that would be needed. The bill would limit the rights and claims detainees have if they were moved to the U.S. 

The plan would also address how the Pentagon would treat future combatants captured under the laws of war. Congress would then have to approve the plan before it is implemented, and restrictions on domestic and foreign transfers would be mostly lifted. 

Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain shares video of father shutting down supporter who called Obama an 'Arab' after Trump rally Graham: Every Republican president or nominee 'will be accused of being a racist' No presidential candidate can unite the country MORE (R-Ariz.), who favors closing the facility but has long asked the administration for a plan, called it a "bipartisan compromise." 

The White House's budget office earlier this week reissued a veto threat against the bill if it were to contain the House's provisions on Guantánamo, among other issues. 

"The restrictions contained in this bill are unwarranted and threaten to interfere with the Executive Branch’s ability to determine the appropriate disposition of detainees," the White House said in a statement Wednesday. 

But McCain said on Thursday, "I hope that if we complete ... this proposal about Guantánamo Bay — which I am convinced is a very workable proposal — the president would be then more inclined to sign the bill, since we all know that was the president's commitment when he came to office back in 2008." 

The bill's Guantánamo proposal first faces a fight on the Senate floor from Republicans. 

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Trump says US will not sell Turkey F-35s after Russian missile defense system purchase MORE (R-Okla.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, called the proposal's inclusion "my greatest disappointment in the bill." 

"I intend to fight this misguided policy," he said in a statement after the Armed Services Committee approved the bill. 

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteKey endorsements: A who's who in early states Sinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race New Hampshire senator to ask 2020 Dems to back repeal of state residency law MORE (R-N.H.), another panel member, and four other Republican lawmakers earlier this year introduced a bill that would add more restrictions, citing a nearly 30 percent rate of suspected and confirmed recidivism cases among released detainees. 

Nonetheless, the bill passed the panel in a 22-4 vote, with ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedSenate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing MORE (D-R.I.) and Democratic Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Biden, Harris set for second Democratic debate showdown Rand Paul accuses Jon Stewart of being 'part of left-wing mob' after criticism over 9/11 victim fund MORE (N.Y.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDemocrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups How Jim Bridenstine recruited an old enemy to advise NASA MORE (D-Fla.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Overnight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker Joint chiefs nominee: Trump's transgender policy about 'standards' MORE (Hawaii) all voting against it. 

Democrats favor closing the facility, arguing it is a recruiting tool for terrorists. Closing Guantánamo would also fulfill a 2007 campaign promise from President Obama. 

There are 122 detainees at the facility, with 57 cleared for release but not eligible for transfer due to restrictions. Most of the cleared detainees are Yemeni but are barred from returning to any country where there have been confirmed cases of recidivism, or where the government is not able to monitor them. 

The Defense secretary can waive the current restrictions after personally certifying that risks will be mitigated, but former Defense secretaries in the administration have expressed caution in doing so.

Earlier this month, Democratic Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei MORE (Calif.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Senate approves long-delayed tax treaties in win for business MORE (Ill.), and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Democrats grill USDA official on relocation plans that gut research staff Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens MORE (Vt.) urged the administration to speed up transfers before the end of the year — presumably before any legislation adding more restrictions could be enacted.