Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Spending Bill Adds New Requirements on Guantanamo Transfer Notification

Republican Texas Rep. Kay Granger, who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that assigns foreign aid, leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on May 20, 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republican Texas Rep. Kay Granger, who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that assigns foreign aid, leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on May 20. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Under the House’s annual State Department and foreign aid spending bill, the executive branch would have to report to Congress five days after it made any arrangements with other countries to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees — a response to the recent transfer of five Taliban prisoners to Qatar for Bowe Bergdahl.

There was some significant anger on Capitol Hill over the Gitmo transfer and whether it violated existing requirements that Congress get notification 30 days in advance of a transfer. This provision — contained in a draft fiscal 2015 spending bill that is due for a House Appropriations Committee vote Tuesday — would go one step back in the process, and represents the first congressional action taken in response to the exchange. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently told Congress that the agreement was reached with Qatar on the prisoner transfer on May 12.

According to a committee news release, “The bill requires a new notification to Congress if the State Department commits to providing assistance to foreign governments who accept Guantanamo detainees. Additionally, the bill requires regular reporting to Congress on any negotiations related to detainee transfers.”

This is the language in the bill itself:


(a) None of the funds made available in this Act, or any prior Act making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related pro- grams, may be obligated for any country, including a state with a compact of free association with the United States, that concludes an agreement with the United States to receive by transfer or release individuals detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, unless, not later than five days after the conclusion of the agreement, but prior to implementation of the agreement, the Secretary of State notifies the Committees on Appropriations in writing of the terms of the agreement: Provided, That any such obligation of funds shall be subject to the regular notification procedures of, and approval by, the Committees on Appropriations.

(b) The Secretary of State shall report to the Committees on Appropriations, not more than 45 days after enactment of this Act, and every 45 days thereafter through fiscal year 2015, on negotiations over the previous 45 days between Department of State personnel and officials of Foreign governments over the potential transfer to such governments of an individual, or individuals, detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: Provided, That such reports may be provided in classified form if necessary.

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