While the House of Representatives is content to pass a version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that expressly prohibits the president from closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the Senate version is slightly more ambiguous.
The Senate will consider a version of the NDAA that allocates funding for a Pentagon program to study and plan for the transfer of detainees to prisons inside the mainland United States, but it would also ban the transfer of detainees to the mainland United States.
That’s not the only contradiction.
Proponents of closing the facility are hailing provisions that would allow detainees to plead guilty in civilian court via teleconference and would specify the Pentagon has the ability to use funding in the bill to plan or design a stateside alternative to Guantanamo.
But opponents of closing the facility are trumpeting other provisions, including one that would expand the list of foreign countries where detainees can’t be transferred to include any country for which the State Department has issued a traveling warning. Right now, the State Department has travel warnings for 37 countries, including three that have accepted detainees from the Obama administration in the past.
Here’s where things stand right now.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill that the president probably wouldn’t sign because, in addition to prohibiting him from closing the prison, it also includes a provision that would overturn his executive orders against LGBT discrimination among federal contractors.
Meanwhile, the Senate will consider a version of the bill that can’t be reconciled with the House version because House Republicans would never agree to allocate funding for the potential transfer of detainees even if transferring them is still banned.
It also isn’t clear if the Senate version will include a provision striking the president’s executive orders. If it doesn’t, that’s one more reason for House Republicans to oppose it.
Neither version can expect much support from Congressional Democrats without significant changes, in which case it may become unpalatable to one or both chambers.
It remains to be seen what will eventually hit the president’s desk, but I suspect the only version that even has a chance of making it that far is one without these policy riders.