Congress Defense Spending

Congress Will Block the Closure of Gitmo. Again.

Written by SK Ashby

I was going to say this is the 5th or 6th time Congress has voted to block the president from closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, but I've lost count. It's at least the 6th time as this is the 6th National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of the Obama era, but Congress has voted several additional times over the last 6 years to prevent closure.

The House of Representatives rejected an amendment to the NDAA last week that would have set a timetable for closing the prison by the end of 2017. Furthermore, the NDAA itself explicitly prohibits the White House from closing the prison.

An amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act that would provide a framework for closing the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, failed on a vote of 174-249.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee and author of the amendment, called the facility an "international eyesore." [...]

The legislation maintains the current ban against transferring Guantánamo Bay detainees to the U.S. It also prohibits building facilities to house detainees on U.S. soil.

As you well know, the president signed an executive order to close the prison immediately after he took office in 2009, but Congress has voted every single year since then to prevent him from closing the prison. Congressional Democrats joined Republicans in unanimous opposition to closing the prison during the early years of the Obama administration.

The White House has stated that the president will veto the NDAA for this among other reasons.

This year's iteration of the NDAA would boost defense spending by using an off-the-books contingency war fund and it would prohibit DREAMers from serving in the military. It would also roll back restrictions against predatory lending aimed at service members.

On their own, prohibitions on closing the prison at Guantanamo may not be enough to warrant a veto of the entire NDAA, which could have far-reaching consequences, but there are multiple reasons why the president would be justified in vetoing this bill.

Furthermore, there is no war in Afghanistan this year that could be used by opponents to shame the president for issuing a veto.

It remains to be seen which elements of his abominable legislation will survive and be included in the version that is eventually signed into law.