The Wall Street Journal reports the White House is examining ways the president could close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, including bypassing Congress.
White House officials have concluded Mr. Obama likely has two options for closing Guantanamo, should Congress extend the restrictions, which it could do after the midterm elections.
He could veto the annual bill setting military policy, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, in which the ban on transferring detainees to the U.S. is written. While the veto wouldn’t directly affect military funding, such a high-stakes confrontation with Congress carries significant political risks.
A second option would be for Mr. Obama to sign the bill while declaring restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners an infringement of his powers as commander in chief, as he has done previously.
A veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) seems highly unlikely to me given that we are now engaged against ISIS, leaving the latter option as more plausible.
The Journal says this could “provoke a sharp reaction” in Congress and I’d call that an understatement.
Both parties, Republicans and Democrats, have repeatedly voted to prohibit the president from closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. During the early years of the Obama administration when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, the president faced unanimous opposition to transferring detainees to maximum security prisons inside the states. In more recent years, Democratic opposition to closing the prison has faded while Republican opposition has become the primary obstacle to closure.
Language that prohibits the president from closing the prison has been included in the NDAA, which funds the full scope of our national defense apparatus, making it difficult for the president to veto.
It’s possible a Republican-controlled House and Senate could place even tighter restrictions on closing the prison. It also seems increasingly plausible given the GOP’s renewed penchant for fearmongering and neo-con foreign policy.
In related news — I can’t explain why the Wall Street Journal refers to the president as “Mr. Obama.” Is “President Obama” or “the president” too wordy?