One big victory by Republicans in 11th hour negotiations to avert government shutdown was a policy rider banning President Obama from closing Guantanamo Bay, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid confirms.
The inclusion of the provision goes against a key campaign pledge of Obama’s and comes after Attorney General Eric Holder signaled the battle over the issue was lost several weeks ago.
Throughout Obama’s presidency, Attorney General Eric Holder has continued to promise the prison would close, but backed off earlier this month when he agreed to try the Sept. 11 terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, instead of New York City as he previously advocated for.
Holder has said what held up the closing of the terrorist prison was a slew of congressional restrictions. “We must face a simple truth: those restrictions are unlikely to be repealed in the immediate future,” he said, and that, “members of Congress have intervened and imposed restrictions blocking the Administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the United States.”
At issue is whether the Guantanamo detainees should be tried as war criminals or in civilian courts. Rep. Allen West, Florida Republican and a tea party-favorite, has advocated that the Obama administration try the Guantanamo detainees in military courts as war criminals.
“We must ask ourselves, are we engaged in a war or a criminal action? If the former, then we are dealing with unlawful enemy combatants, not criminals,” West said in March 8 statement. “The leadership of this nation is confused in understanding the delineation between the two and therefore convey a serious lack of comprehension of the complexity of the modern 21st century battlefield. Unlawful enemy combatants are not American citizens and therefore not privy to our constitutional rights,” West said.