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. 

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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 McCain The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Biden's debate performance renews questions of health At debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR 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 InhofeIs the Senate ready to protect American interests in space? Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall Gun debate to shape 2020 races 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 AyotteGOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states 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 ReedIs the Senate ready to protect American interests in space? Trump moving forward to divert .6B from military projects for border wall GOP lawmakers call for provisions barring DOD funds for border wall to be dropped MORE (D-R.I.) and Democratic Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandAt debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR Trump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions Klobuchar, Buttigieg find themselves accidentally flying to debate together MORE (N.Y.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonAl Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups MORE (D-Fla.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoOvernight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare Lawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Democratic senator on possibility of Trump standing up to the NRA: 'That's just such BS' 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 FeinsteinTrump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions This week: Congress returns for first time since mass shootings GOP senators object to White House delaying home-state projects for border wall MORE (Calif.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms Trump defends push to ban flavored e-cigarettes: Let's 'keep young children from Vaping!' Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine MORE (Ill.), and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine On The Money: Trump delays increase in China tariffs until Oct. 15 | Treasury says US deficit topped trillion in 11 months | Defense spending bill advances over Democratic wall objections 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.