House votes to halt trans­fer of Gitmo pris­on­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Push­ing back against Pres­i­dent Obama’s stepped-up plans to close Guan­tanamo Bay, the House voted this week to stop all trans­fers of sus­pected ter­ror­ist de­tainees, to halt the search for al­ter­nate lo­ca­tions in the U.S., and even to ax the Pen­tagon’s two of­fices try­ing to shut­ter the prison.

The votes came as the cham­ber de­bated and ap­proved the an­nual de­fense spend­ing bill, and sig­nal that con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans in­tend to hold firm against Mr. Obama’s 2008 cam­paign goal of clos­ing the prison.

Mr. Obama did emerge with sev­eral vic­to­ries on other mil­i­tary mat­ters, in­clud­ing gain­ing tacit ap­proval of his war plans in Iraq and Syria, af­ter the House de­feated sev­eral at­tempts to up­date the al Qaeda-era res­o­lu­tion au­tho­riz­ing the use of force against ter­ror­ists. And the House pre­served mil­i­tary aid to Pak­istan, Saudi Ara­bia and the rebels in Syria, giv­ing Mr. Obama a con­tin­ued free hand to fight the Is­lamic State the way he wants.

But the pres­i­dent had less luck on the do­mes­tic front, with the House vot­ing to free the Pen­tagon from or­ders that it con­sider the ef­fects of cli­mate change on its op­er­a­tions, telling him to stop hous­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grant chil­dren at mil­i­tary bases and re­strain­ing him on Guan­tanamo.

“The re­cent re­ports that de­tainees re­leased from Guan­tanamo Bay have gone on to kill at least six Amer­i­cans un­der­scores the need to pre­vent the re­lease of ter­ror­ists cur­rently in cus­tody in Guan­tanamo,” said Rep. Ron DeSan­tis, the Florida Repub­li­can who wrote the amend­ment ax­ing the Pen­tagon’s spe­cial en­voy for Guan­tanamo de­ten­tion clo­sure and the prin­ci­pal direc­tor of de­tainee pol­icy.

That pro­posal passed on a 226194 vote.

Mr. Obama had al­ready said he would veto the bill even be­fore the new Guan­tanamo re­stric­tions were added, and it’s likely that re­solve will be strength­ened by the new pro­vi­sions.

Even be­fore that, the pro­vi­sions will need to be ap­proved by the Se­nate, where Democrats, who have the power to fil­i­buster, are likely to be skep­ti­cal of such broad re­stric­tions.

Congress has tied Mr. Obama’s hands since the be­gin­ning of his ten­ure, stymy­ing his cam­paign prom­ise to close the fa­cil­ity within a year of tak­ing of­fice. But the new round of House re­stric­tions goes be­yond what Congress has im­posed be­fore.

One amend­ment from Rep. Richard Hud­son, North Carolina Repub­li­can, would ban all trans­fers out of Guan­tanamo, ef­fec­tively freez­ing the pop­u­la­tion. Democrats said it wouldn’t even al­low the re­lease of those ac­quit­ted in a mil­i­tary commission of any in­volve­ment in ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties.

That amend­ment was ap­proved on a voice vote Wed­nes­day.

Rep. Doug Lam­born, Colorado Repub­li­can, won ap­proval of a ban on even con­duct­ing stud­ies for U.S. lo­ca­tions to house de­tainees. He said that if trans­fer­ring them to the U.S. is banned, it doesn’t make sense for the Pen­tagon to spend money try­ing to pre­pare for some­thing that won’t hap­pen.

His amend­ment passed on a 245-175 vote.

“It­woul­dob­vi­ous­ly­makeit­much more dif­fi­cult to close the prison,” said Rep. Jer­rold Nadler, a New York Demo­crat who led the op­po­si­tion, say­ing that Guan­tanamo has be­come a dan­ger to na­tional se­cu­rity, as well as more costly than bring­ing sus­pects to the U.S.

Some 91 de­tainees are still in Guan­tanamo, and Mr. Obama hopes to trans­fer at least some of them to other coun­tries — an op­tion that is al­lowed, though heav­ily re­stricted, un­der cur­rent law.

The de­fense spend­ing bill is al­ways one of the most in­tensely fought pieces of leg­is­la­tion. It deals with a large chunk of the dis­cre­tionary fund­ing avail­able to Congress, and af­fects bases and mil­i­tary con­trac­tors and sup­pli­ers across the coun­try, mean­ing jobs for con­stituents.

And at a time when the U.S. is boost­ing its com­mit­ments in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the bill served as a fo­rum for pol­icy de­bates.

Democrats led an ef­fort to try to force Congress to come up with a new Autho­riza­tion for the Use of Mil­i­tary Force (AUMF) to gov­ern the war on ter­ror, say­ing that the 2001 doc­u­ment is out­dated and didn’t en­vi­sion the cur­rent bat­tle with the Is­lamic State in Syria and Iraq.

But that was re­jected in a 285-135 tally that amounts to a vote in fa­vor of Mr. Obama’s cur­rent war plans. The House also specif­i­cally re­jected an ef­fort to end the trou­bled pro­gram to train and equip rebels in Syria.

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