U.S. lawmakers on Monday dealt a serious blow to President Barack Obama’s plan to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba by rejecting the inclusion of steps necessary for closing the facility in the annual defense authorization bill. The final bill is expected to be approved by Congress in the coming days, according to media reports.
“Our language ... [on Guantanamo] ... will not be in the bill,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairperson of the Armed Services Committee, reportedly said on Monday, adding that the final bill did not contain provisions that would provide the president with the authorization to transfer terror suspects to the U.S.
Earlier in May, Levin had demanded that the bill include a provision to authorize the transfer of terror suspects to U.S. soil “for detention, trial and incarceration, subject to stringent security measures and legal protections,” calling it “a path to close Guantanamo,” according to media reports. However, that version of the bill reportedly faced stiff resistance from lawmakers, including many Republicans and a few Democrats, who wanted strict restrictions to be placed on detainees being transferred to the U.S. and their home countries.
Obama had signed an executive order in 2009 to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo within a year. However, five years later, the prison remains open, partly because of resistance from Congress. Many Republicans have argued that transferring prisoners to their home countries -- an essential step toward closing the facility that currently houses 142 people -- without adequate screening is “dangerous and … reckless.”
According to media reports, the compromise version of the bill, which is expected to be introduced in the House later this week, will have restrictive bans on the transfer of detainees, as demanded by Republicans in Congress.