The U.S. Senate passed a defense bill on Tuesday that containing a wide array of provisions, including one that blocks the transfer of the 112 remaining Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the United States. The president has indicated that he wants to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, but the Senate’s bipartisan vote makes closing the prison more difficult, as Congress would have the votes to override a presidential veto.
President Obama could still decide to issue an executive order shutting down the prison, but he would do so without support from the Congress. The defense bill also contained several provisions unrelated to closing the Guantanamo facility. However, the section of the bill pertaining to the prison, is a significant setback for proponents of ending detentions there quickly.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was one of only three Senators to vote down the measure. He was joined in his opposition to the bill by both Oregon Senators — Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.
Six Republicans did not vote. Dean Heller of Nevada did not vote, nor did David Vitter of Louisiana, who is currently running for Governor of his state, facing a run-off election on November 21st. Four GOP presidential hopefuls — Marcio Rubio (FL), Ted Cruz (TX), Rand Paul (KY) and Lindsey Graham (SC), also did not vote on the measure. Rubio, Cruz and Paul are scheduled to appear at a Republican debate in Milwaukee Tuesday evening.
Lacking the votes to sustain a veto, the White House is expected to sign the bill for the provisions they agree with, leaving open the option to shut down the Guantanamo prison by executive order later.
What the president does believe though is that there are a number of provisions in the NDAA that are important to running and protecting the country. So that’s why I would expect you’d see the president sign the NDAA when it comes to his desk, whenever it comes to his desk.
That certainly does not reflect a change in our position, or the intensity of our position, about the need to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
The Guantanamo prison has dubious value in protecting America from terrorist threats, and its continued operation violates many international standards on human rights. The prison has become a liability in the war against terrorism and it undermines America’s claims for moral authority in fighting that war. Unfortunately, too many in the U.S. Senate have a cast a vote that will make it more difficult to shut the facility down.