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The Plan to Close Guantanamo Bay

21 April 2016

By Kyler Beaty, Legislative Research Intern

For years, the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, located in Cuba, has been used by the United States government to house potential threats to national security. Throughout its existence, it has been met with numerous accusations, scandals, and an ongoing debate over alleged human rights violations. Recently, President Barack Obama proposed a plan to effectively shut down the facility.

This type of plan has been proposed before; however, it never seems to pass through the many stages of the law-making process. In May 2007, H Amdt 197 was introduced that would amend HB 1585 and require the Secretary of Defense at the time to submit a detailed plan within sixty days to shut down the facility. This amendment was added to HR 1585, the “National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2008”, which was eventually vetoed by President George W. Bush.

In 2014, H Amdt 901 and H Amdt 905 were adopted by the House of Representatives that prohibited funds from HR 4870, the “Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2015”, from being used to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees to foreign countries, including the Republic of Yemen. HR 2029, the Omnibus Appropriations Act, also prohibited funds from being used to transfer or release individuals that are detained in Guantanamo Bay facilities.

Now, President Obama is attempting to close down the facility once again with a plan that he presented in a speech on February 23. In the speech, he outlines a plan to use the Article III federal courts in order to either release or transfer the remaining 91 detainees within Guantanamo Bay into a maximum security prison. President Obama believes this will save the American taxpayers almost $2 billion over the next 20 years, and uses examples such as the shoe bomber, the individual who put a car bomb in Times Square, and the Boston Marathon bomber to support his cause.

On the same day, former presidential candidate Marco Rubio condemned Obama’s plan, calling it “dangerous and disastrous.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that transferring detainees to American soil is “against the law,” and asserts that it will stay against the law. Many Democrats and Republican supporters of shutting down Guantanamo Bay have also criticized the plan. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democratic Senator, said he has voted to close the prison before, but he does not want them transferred to the Colorado prison system. Instead, he believes they should be “held in military prisons”. Republican Senator John McCain believes the President’s plan to shut down Guantanamo Bay is irresponsible. He cited it as a “vague menu of options”, rather than a detailed, responsible plan.

Regardless of the backlash, some have supported the current proposed plan, or have supported the closing of Guantanamo Bay in the past. Both democratic presidential primary contenders, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, supported closing Guantanamo Bay at the South Carolina town hall discussion. Senator Sanders said the Cuban naval base makes the United States “look like fools and hypocrites to the entire world,” while Secretary Clinton believes the president is right in trying to close the facility and calls it a “continuing advertisement for terrorists.”

Clearly, the closing of Guantanamo Bay has become a very political issue. There are those with moral and pragmatic reasons on both sides of the topic. The plan to close down the detention facility will likely be met with considerable opposition, and have a rough time getting through Congress. Another heated political battle is likely to ensue in the coming weeks and months over President Obama’s plan.

Kyler Beaty is a student at Texas State University majoring in Applied Sociology and a current intern with Project Vote Smart. For more information on internship opportunities with Project Vote Smart, contact us at or by calling 406-859-8683.


Related tags: blog, guantanamo-bay

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