GOP House bill would block Guantanamo closing

WASHINGTON — Rebuffing President Obama’s latest plea, House Republicans on Monday proposed keeping open the military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by barring the administration from transferring its terrorism suspects to the United States or a foreign country such as Yemen.

The provisions dealing with the fate of the remaining 166 prisoners are part of a defense policy bill drafted by Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. ‘‘Buck’’ McKeon, Republican of California.

The chairman released the bill Monday, two days before Republicans and Democrats on the committee will vote on it.


Overall, the bill would authorize $638 billion for the military in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, including $86 billion for war costs. The committee responded to concerns that the military was headed toward a readiness crisis due to automatic spending cuts by adding nearly $5 billion beyond the president’s budget request for training programs, equipment maintenance, spare parts, and more.

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The final bill will probably include additional provisions addressing the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military, while adding funds for missile defense and weapons programs, with most reflecting the will of Republicans who control the House.

The full chamber is expected to vote on the bill this summer and then work out differences when the Democratic-run Senate passes its version.

‘‘The bill restores vital readiness programs, invests in capabilities to meet the threats of the future, and supports our troops and their families,’’ McKeon said in a statement.

Addressing a range of policy issues, the chairman’s legislation would block the United States from spending $2.6 billion to train and equip Afghan security forces until the Defense and State departments have certified to Congress that the two countries have a bilateral security agreement governing the presence of US forces there after the current combat mission ends in 2014.


McKeon’s bill also urges the Obama administration to ‘‘fully consider all courses of action’’ to remove President Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime from power.

The legislation does not endorse providing weapons to the rebel forces in Syria, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did last month.

Less than two weeks ago, Obama renewed his 2008 campaign promise to close the Guantanamo prison. He argued that the indefinite detentions with little prospect of charges or a trial flouts the rule of law and said terrorists have used the naval detention center as a recruiting tool.

“Given my administration’s relentless pursuit of Al Qaeda’s leadership, there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened,’’ Obama said May 23 in a speech at the National Defense University.

Obama lifted the moratorium on transferring prisoners to Yemen and said their status would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. In Yemen this past weekend, officials said they were moving ahead on a facility to house any transfers from Guantanamo.


Republicans and several Democrats have repeatedly stymied the president’s past efforts to close Guantanamo or transfer prisoners.