WASHINGTON (CN) — President Barack Obama’s efforts to shutter the Guantanamo Bay detention center suffered a blow Tuesday as the Senate passed a bill that blocks federal funding for the initiative.
In addition to preventing Guantanamo’s closure, the National Defense Authorization Act renews a provision that blocks the Obama administration from transferring detainees to the United States or building new facilities here to house them.
A massive yearly undertaking, the spending package also requires the secretary of defense to submit a report to Congress before moving detainees to a foreign country, and it restricts the countries from which the administration can choose. One section of the bill blocks detainees from being sent to countries for which the State Department has issued a travel warning.
The bill passed 85-13 Tuesday morning, setting up a fight with Obama, who has threatened to veto it.
While the White House threatened to veto the bill over many of its provisions, like those setting an “arbitrary” limit on the president’s National Security Council’s staff and reorganizing the military’s health care system, the Guantanamo provisions were at the top of its list.
“Rather than taking the steps necessary to close the facility, this bill includes several provisions that would seek to extend its operation,” the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a June 7 statement of administration policy.
The White House criticized the Senate for misusing the State Department’s travel-warning system, saying the government warning travelers about going to a country does not represent that country’s ability to accept detainees.
“These warnings do not reflect a country’s ability to mitigate potential risk with regard to transferred detainees or serve as an appropriate substitute for the Administration’s careful and individualized assessment based on all relevant facts and circumstances of the capability of potential receiving countries to successfully reintegrate detainees and implement appropriate security measures,” the White House statement reads.
But Republicans rebutted the White House’s concerns, claiming the provisions blocking the closure of Guantanamo Bay are necessary for national security.
“These terrorists are among the worst of the worst,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor last week. “They belong at the secure detention facility. Not in facilities here in our communities. Not in unstable countries where they’re liable to rejoin the fight and take more innocent life.”
Obama pledged to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in his first run for the presidency in 2008 but has been stymied by a hostile Congress, including lukewarm support from within his own party.
Only seven Democrats voted against the bill on Tuesday, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a party progressive often floated as a potential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Obama vetoed last year’s version of the bill before eventually signing into law a second version that corrected some of the funding problems the president saw in the first. The White House has also threatened a veto of the House version of the bill, which contains similar provisions on Guantanamo.
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