Senate passes legislation barring transfer of Guantánamo prisoners to US
Barack Obama’s efforts to fulfil his promise of closing the Guantánamo Bay detention centre before he leaves office were dealt a significant blow on Tuesday as the Senate passed legislation preventing the administration from relocating prisoners to the United States.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has the primary purpose of setting the US Defense Department budget, passed the Senate by an overwhelming majority of 91-3 in a faster-than-usual passage through Congress, designed in part to frustrate White House plans to announce a new Guantánamo closure strategy.
An earlier version of the NDAA was vetoed by the White House due to a separate row over budgeting, but this second attempt, which was passed by the House of Representatives last week, contains language blocking the transfer of prisoners to mainland US facilities.
The legislation now goes to the White House for the president’s signature, but a veto is seen as unlikely this time around due to the political necessity of funding the Defense Department – leaving the administration with much less room for manoeuvre as it seeks a solution to the long-running Guantánamo problem.
Obama has been in a standoff with Congress over what to do with remaining prisoners at the US base in Cuba almost ever since he assumed office. But he is preparing to unveil a new strategy in the next few days.