GOP: Obama's Gitmo plan is 'dead on arrival'

GOP: Obama's Gitmo plan is 'dead on arrival'
© Francis Rivera

Republicans on Tuesday blasted President Obama's plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility moments after he proposed it, calling it a "menu of options" and a "press release" instead of a plan.  

"What we received today is a vague menu of options, not a credible plan for closing Guantanamo, let alone a coherent policy to deal with future terrorist detainees," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSteve Schmidt: 'Overwhelming chance that Trump will dump Pence' for Haley Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Sanders proposes expanded Veterans Affairs services, B to rebuild infrastructure MORE (R-Ariz.) said.

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"The President has missed a major chance to convince the Congress and the American people that he has a responsible plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," added McCain, one of the few Republicans in the Senate who has said he would consider supporting closing the facility. 

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Schumer concerned by Army's use of TikTok, other Chinese social media platforms Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (R-Ark.) responded: "Simply put: this plan is dead on arrival in the Senate.”

The president's long-awaited plan proposes continuing to transfer eligible detainees and moving the remaining ones — anywhere between 30 to 60 detainees — into a facility in the U.S. 

There are 91 detainees at the facility, with 35 eligible for transfer. Ten are facing military court proceedings, and 46 are currently not eligible for either. 

The plan did not name a facility to transfer the detainees to, instead noting 13 sites that would serve as a "prototype" of facilities needed to house them. Seven of those sites — in Kansas, Colorado and South Carolina — were surveyed. 

Republicans accused Obama of passing the buck to Congress on details.

“What the President submitted today is more press release than a plan," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said.

"More than seven years after he first ordered the detention center at GTMO closed, I find it telling that the White House has either failed to work out these important details or they know, but refuse to disclose them, to the American public," he continued. 

“The absence of a specific recommendation for an alternative location proves that there is no suitable location," added Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsEleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Pressure builds on Pompeo as impeachment inquiry charges ahead GOP lawmakers fear Trump becoming too consumed by impeachment fight MORE (R-Kan.), whose state has detention facilities that were surveyed by the administration. 

“The plan leaves the details to Congress, which has overwhelmingly and time after time, opposed this action in the first place," he said.

"The President’s so-called plan is for Congress to act. Fortunately for him, we have acted and the President has agreed to our legislation for the past seven years — keep the terrorists in the prison at Guantanamo Bay," said Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.). 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis Ryan Retirees should say 'no thanks' to Romney's Social Security plan California Governor Newsom and family dress as 2020 Democrats for Halloween DC's liaison to rock 'n' roll MORE (R-Wis.) said details on the cost of moving the detainees to a specific location were "required by law."  

"Congress has left no room for confusion," he said. "We will not jeopardize our national security over a campaign promise.”

Both McCain and Thornberry said they would review the plan and hold hearings on the administration's plan, but indicated they did not have high hopes. 

"I have pledged to give the President’s plan a fair hearing, but he makes it impossible to do so when he withholds critical details," added Thornberry. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell protege emerges as Kentucky's next rising star Hillicon Valley: Schumer questions Army over use of TikTok | Federal court rules against random searches of travelers' phones | Groups push for election security funds in stopgap bill | Facebook's new payment feature | Disney+ launch hit by glitches McConnell, GOP leaders say they won't be watching House impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ky.) said Senate Republicans would review the plan but added that "since it includes bringing dangerous terrorists to facilities in U.S. communities, he knows that the bipartisan will of Congress has already been expressed against that proposal."

Other Republicans in the House and Senate lined up to slam Obama's proposal.

Some — particularly lawmakers whose states were surveyed as possible locations — argued that bringing terrorists to the U.S. would endanger the safety of local communities.  

"The detainees housed in Guantanamo are the most dangerous terrorists. They should not be housed at the Charleston Naval Brig — adjacent to schools, churches, neighborhoods, and ports," Rep. Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves WilsonThe Hill Interview: Sanford says Trump GOP doing 'serious brand destruction' GOP lawmaker: 'Dangerous' abuse of Interpol by Russia, China, Venezuela Washington Post fact-checker gives Plame three Pinocchios for Libby claim MORE (R-S.C.) said. 

Others argued it would endanger U.S. national security to release detainees, noting that nearly 30 percent of released detainees have either been confirmed or suspected of having returned to the battlefield.

"I believe the President’s plan would increase the terror threat to the United States, and I implore him to focus on winning the war against Islamist terror rather than trying to find new homes for its jihadists," House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said.

And with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continuing to pose a threat, they argued it would be necessary to have a place to detain terrorist suspects outside of the U.S. homeland.  

Rep. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonArizona voters like Kyl but few think he'll stick around Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain in Senate Arizona governor faces pressure over McCain replacement MORE (R-Ariz.) also argued that creating what some Republicans are calling a "Gitmo North" would not solve any problems. 

"Aside from being illegal, closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp just does not solve any problems," he said. "Bluntly, it won't happen." 

This story was updated at 6:19 p.m.