President Barack Obama's unfulfilled campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay in his first hundred days in office has undoubtedly haunted him for the past seven years. Today, with less than a year left in the White House, he proposed a plan to finally make good on his commitment.
"The plan we're putting forward today isn't just about closing the facility at Guantanamo. It's not just about dealing with the current group of detainees, which is a complex piece of business because of the manner in which they were originally apprehended and what happened. This is about closing a chapter in our history," the President said in a statement. “Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values. It undermines our standing in the world. It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law.”
Obama laid out his blueprint to transfer the majority of the detainees to prisons in other counties, and moving the rest, who are too dangerous to be locked up abroad, to detention facilities in the United States.
Unsurprisingly, Republicans in Congress wasted no time vowing to fight Obama's plan at every turn. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said the plan “fails to provide critical details required by law," adding, "it is against the law, and will stay against the law, to transfer terrorist detainees to American soil.” John McCain said that the President’s statements are “not a credible plan for closing Guantanamo, let alone a coherent policy to deal with future terrorist detainees.”
White House officials have not ruled out unilateral action to close the prison, with Obama saying that he plans to use “all legal action to deal with the remaining detainees.” But that does not mean he will not need bipartisan support for his plan, and risks turning it into a divisive campaign issue for the current crop of presidential candidates.
Press secretary Josh Earnest says Republicans' declaration to block the bill “just reinforces a pretty significant problem that Congress has right now. I think by anybody who’s paying attention, it’s hard to figure out exactly what Congress is doing,” he said. “They’re certainly not doing their jobs.”
One thing's for sure, Obama seems determined not to go quietly into retirement and is using his last few months in office to aggressively push forward the agenda that got him elected.