Led by the GOP, the House passed a defense spending bill today that violated the constitution separation of powers by stripping President Obama of his Commander in Chief authority.
By a vote of 340-73, the House passed a defense spending bill that includes a provision that forbids President Obama from moving any detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay for a year.
The problem with this piece of legislation is that it is not constitutional.
Before the House passed the bill, the White House had already labeled the GITMO provisions unconstitutional, “The Administration strongly objects to sections 8107, 8108, 8139, and 9015 of the bill, each of which would restrict the Executive Branch’s ability to manage the Guantánamo detainee population. The President has repeatedly objected to the inclusion of these or similar provisions in prior legislation and this year has reiterated his call to the Congress to lift such restrictions. As the President said in his State of the Union Address, “this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantánamo Bay.” Operating the detention facility at Guantánamo weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists. These provisions are unwarranted and threaten to interfere with the Executive Branch’s ability to determine the appropriate disposition of detainees and its flexibility to determine when and where to prosecute Guantánamo detainees based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests. Sections 8107, 8139, and 9015 would, moreover, violate constitutional separation-of-powers principles under certain circumstances.”
The White House is correct on this one. Republicans have always tried to ignore this fact, but the GITMO detainees that were captured during armed conflict are prisoners of war. The House does not have the constitutional authority to forbid the president from doing anything with POWs. This is why, until now, congress has chosen to block President Obama’s efforts to close the prison by withholding funding.
The House of Representatives is limited to controlling the power of the purse, and congressional oversight. Republicans and Democrats who voted for this bill stepped way over the line, and violated the constitution. Republicans sought no legislation to limit George W. Bush when he released or transferred 500 detainees from GITMO.
Instead of fighting President Obama to keep an abomination to international law open, Congress should do the right thing and appropriate the funds to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay once and for all.