Congress deals big setback to Obama's effort to close Guantánamo

Effort to authorize transfer of prisoners falters

Published December 2, 2014 2:29PM (EST)

  (Reuters/Shane T. McCoy)
(Reuters/Shane T. McCoy)

It's now been almost six years since President Obama vowed to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within one year, but the U.S. has yet to shutter the facility. On Monday, Congress dealt a big setback to Obama's effort to close the prison.

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the retiring chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters yesterday that language authorizing the transfer of detainees to other facilities has been stricken from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual legislation that sets military policy.

"Our language ... (on Guantánamo) ... will not be in," Levin said Monday, seven months after he proclaimed that the language offered a "path to close Guantánamo."

The Military Times notes that the House version of the NDAA bans the transfer of detainees to U.S. soil; American officials say that if Guantánamo is to close, at least some of the remaining detainees will need to be sent to U.S. prisons.

Guantánamo currently holds 142 detainees, 73 of whom have been cleared for release, according to the Military Times.

Though Congress has obstructed efforts to close Guantánamo, the Wall Street Journal reported in October that Obama is weighing executive action to override congressional opposition to shutting the facility. U.S. officials told the paper that Obama could exercise one of two options for unilaterally closing the prison: He could veto the NDAA, or he could sign it but issue a signing statement declaring banning detainee transfers infringes on his constitutional authority as commander in chief.

By Luke Brinker

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