U.S. congress extends ban on Guantanamo prison closure
The U.S. Congress extended a ban Tuesday on the transfer of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to the United States, in a bid to block any attempt by President Barack Obama to close the military prison.
The Senate voted 91 to 3 to approve the 2016 defense budget bill, which contained the measure extending the ban. The House of Representatives passed the bill last week 370-58.
Obama vetoed an earlier version of the defense bill, largely because on the language on Guantanamo. This time, the White House did not threaten a veto, which would have been futile because there is a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Congress that would override it.
Obama promised to close the scandal-tainted prison upon taking office in 2008, but has been stymied by congressional opposition.
Created in 2002 at a U.S. naval base on the southeastern tip of Cuba, it currently holds 112 “war on terror” prisoners, including the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The administration has been openly making plans to transfer the 59 most dangerous detainees to the United States. The other 53 have been cleared for transfer to other countries.
Several sites are under consideration, in Colorado, Kansas and South Carolina. The Pentagon is expected to release a report on the subject soon.
Such a move would be in complete defiance of Congress, and Republicans have insisted for several weeks it would be illegal.
“The Senate has voted many times over the years to enact these bipartisan prohibitions,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
Lawmakers from states with prisons that would house the Guantanamo inmates are particularly incensed by the transfer plans, saying it would make them targets for attack.