Obama to veto defense bill unless Congress closes Guantanamo

So who's the obstructionist now?

President Obama is promising to veto the defense spending bill unless Congress votes to close the prison camp at Guantanamo in Cuba.

Roll Call:

“So this is an indication that Republicans are gonna need to find a way to work with Democrats to put forward a National Defense Authorization Act that will earn not just the support of Congress, but also the support of the commander in chief,” he said.

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., has said the White House promised him a plan to close the prison, but has yet to present one. Without that, he has said he wouldn’t be able to find the votes to do what the White House wants.

And there are certainly people on Capitol Hill who wonder whether Obama will ultimately veto the bill — or the next version, if a budget deal is reached — over Guantánamo. The defense policy bill has become law for more than 50 years in a row, and Obama has signed it every year despite issuing veto threats over the military prison in Cuba.

Raha Wala, senior counsel at Human Rights First, noted Obama’s threatened vetoes before.

“We’ve heard many times that the president would veto bills over Guantánamo restrictions, and he’s never done it,” Wala said in an email. “What we need now is action. The Defense Authorization would prevent the president from closing Guantánamo before he leaves office. If he wants to close Guantánamo, the president must veto the bill and demand that Congress remove the restrictions on transferring detainees.”

The president is no doubt eager to close Guantanamo in order to please the far left as well as Raúl Castro, who has been agitating for a return of our naval base to Cuba. 

In truth, there is no plan on what to do with the remaining 116 prisoners at the prison camp.  President Obama has suggested that they can be safely housed in regular high-security American prisons, but Congress will not stand for that plan, and various other schemes have also been roundly rejected.

The only reason to close the prison is to assuage international opinion.  Guantanamo is a "symbol" of American violations of international law – at least in the past.  Currently, there are no prisoners in the world better treated.  But a presidency of smoke and mirrors deals largely in symbolic gestures, so Gitmo has got to go.

Republicans will dare the president to veto the spending bill, making it impossible to pay our servicemen, both current and retired.  It's a game of chicken the GOP is likely to win.

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