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 McCainJames Taylor to perform at awards ceremony for Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week Conservative activist wins contest to represent New Hampshire at Republican National Convention Schiff shows clip of McCain in Trump impeachment trial 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 InhofeGOP Foreign Affairs leaders join pushback against potential troop drawdown in Africa Democrats say Trump ceded right to block Bolton when he attacked him Broad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa 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 ReedOvernight Defense: Veterans group seeks Trump apology for comments on brain injuries | Pentagon says dozens of troops suffered traumatic injuries after attack | Trump unveils Space Force logo Dozens of US troops suffered traumatic brain injuries after Iran missile strikes Six mayors making a difference MORE (D-R.I.) and Democratic Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandIt's time for paid leave for all GOP-Biden feud looms over impeachment trial Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change MORE (N.Y.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade Lobbying world Bottom Line MORE (D-Fla.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocrats worry Trump team will cherry-pick withheld documents during defense Democrats urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency from chopping block Restlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on 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 FeinsteinExtreme Risk Protection Order Act will help keep guns out of the wrong hands California Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat Biden wins endorsement of Sacramento mayor MORE (Calif.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinIllinois senators meet with Amtrak CEO over ,000 price tag for wheelchair users Durbin pushes back on Dershowitz claims: 'Give me a break professor' Senators ready for question time in impeachment trial MORE (Ill.), and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Senators ask FDA to crack down on non-dairy milks, cheeses Lawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent 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.