President Must Follow Laws He Signed Prohibiting Transfer of Gitmo Terrorists to U.S.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the President’s announcement on the secure terrorist-detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba:
“President Obama has left the American people to wait many years for a serious plan — one that poses no additional risk to our nation or our armed forces, for instance — in pursuit of his desire to close the secure detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
“Americans have been waiting seven long years to find out what that serious plan might look like.
“They’re still waiting today.
“What the President sent to Congress yesterday isn’t a plan. It’s more of a research project if anything. It does call on Congress to act though.
“Turns out, we already have.
“Congress has repeatedly voted to enact clear bipartisan prohibitions on the very thing the President is again calling for: the transfer of Guantanamo Bay terrorists into our local communities.
“We’ve enacted bipartisan prohibitions in Congresses with split party control.
“We’ve enacted bipartisan prohibitions in Congresses with massive, overwhelming Democratic majorities.
“Just a couple months ago, Members of Congress in both parties expressed themselves clearly once again — not once but twice, and on an overwhelming bipartisan basis.
“President Obama signed these bipartisan prohibitions into law too.
“So let’s not pretend there is even the faintest of pretenses for some ‘pen and phone’ gambit here.
“Congress has acted: clearly, repeatedly, and on a bipartisan basis.
“The President now has a duty to follow the laws that he himself signed.
“It shouldn’t be that hard when you consider his admonition yesterday about ‘upholding the highest standards of rule of law’ in our country. ‘As Americans,’ he said, ‘we pride ourselves on being a beacon to other nations, a model of the rule of law.’
“That’s interesting in light of a recent GAO ruling that the Administration’s detainee swap of Taliban prisoners for Bowe Berghdahl violated the law. It’s especially interesting in light of the President’s continuing refusal to rule out breaking the law if he doesn’t get his way on Guantanamo.
“President Obama’s own Attorney General says he can’t unilaterally do that.
“President Obama’s own Defense Secretary says he can’t unilaterally do that.
“President Obama’s own top military officer says he can’t unilaterally do that.
“In the words of one of our Democratic colleagues, ‘He’s going to have to comply with the legal restrictions.’
“Simple as that.
“Breaking the law as a way to supposedly uphold the rule of law is just as absurd as it sounds. It’s time the President finally ruled that option out categorically. And then, he should finally move on from a years-old campaign promise and focus on the real problems that need solving today.
“My own hope is that the commander-in-chief will not put his own chain of command in the position of having to carry out an unlawful direct order.
“But look: Closing Guantanamo and transferring terrorists to the United States didn’t make sense in 2008 and it makes even less sense today. We are a nation at war.
“The Administration’s efforts to ‘contain’ ISIL thus far have not succeeded.
“The next President may very well want to pursue operations that target, capture, detain, and interrogate terrorists, because that’s how terrorist networks are defeated.
“Why would we take that option away from the next commander-in-chief now?
“And let’s be clear.
“The two options on the table are not keeping Guantanamo open or closing it, but keeping Guantanamo terrorists at Guantanamo or moving them to some ‘Guantanamo North’ based in a U.S. community.
“Changing the detention center's ZIP code is not a solution. It’s not even serious.
“The fact that the President missed a deadline for submitting a plan to defeat ISIL last week, presumably because he was too busy working on this ancient campaign promise, is just completely unacceptable.
“Some of the most senior national security officials within President Obama’s own administration are already working to better position the next President for the national security challenges we will face in 2017.
“It’s time President Obama finally joined them, and us, in the serious work of keeping Americans safe in a dangerous world.”
Related Issues: Guantanamo Detention Facility, Al Qaeda, War on Terror