Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 28, 2015

Ted Cruz to Push Moratorium on Guantanamo Transfers

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Ted Cruz plans an aggressive push to impose a moratorium on transferring detainees out of the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Asked about the possibility of trying to attach his six month delay in additional transfers out of the detention facility to an upcoming appropriations bill, the Texas Republican said he would explore every option.

“We will attempt to use all procedural tools to advance the bill,” Cruz said. “I think putting a halt to releasing terrorists from Guantánamo while there is time to assess whether our national security interests are being protected is only prudent, and I hope Congress will step up and exercise its constitutional authority.”

The Cruz maneuver comes in the aftermath of the swap of five Taliban officials for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on May 31. The Obama administration has faced bipartisan criticism for the terms of the deal, as well as the lack of congressional notification pursuant to existing law.

“There are real and serious constitutional arguments that can be raised about the statute Congress passed requiring Congressional notification, but the administration has not treated this issue with the seriousness that is appropriate. Indeed, one of the most troubling aspects of this is the cavalier aspect with which this administration just ignores statutes,” Cruz said.

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said Tuesday that the White House justification for the lack of notice was “just not true.”

The new legislation contains waiver provisions, but it’s unclear whether any congressionally-mandated moratorium would be deemed to infringe on the powers of the commander-in-chief anyway.

“As the legislation is drafted, it’s simply a six-month pause to allow time for consideration,” Cruz said. “The legislation has within it a provision for a congressional waiver if there are exigent circumstances in those six months that are compelling. The president can go to Congress and seek a waiver from that.”

Cruz made his comments to reporters gathered after a closed Senate Armed Services briefing on the Bergdahl matter.

Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he would oppose the Cruz effort and similar endeavors.

“When your top uniform officers support this kind of a transfer to get their people back, I’m not willing to legislate and put Congress to say that they should never do this. I’m not willing to say that if they believe that their military requirements and ethos lead to this kind of conclusion,” Levin said. “So I would not support that.”

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III also continued to express concern after the briefing, which is just the latest in a series about the Bergdahl deal.

“In my mind, it’s still a bad deal. I can’t explain it back home to my fellow West Virginians,” the West Virginian said. “The bottom line is, is why all of a sudden five at one time? Why keep them for this long and now they don’t become a threat to the United States of America?”

Despite all else, “It still doesn’t justify [a swap for] five of the most notorious people we’ve had for 10 years,” Manchin said. “If they were that important for us to keep them that long then to believe that all of the sudden all five are okay to be released?”

Earlier Tuesday Arizona Republican John McCain was asked about the Cruz proposal to bar any prisoner transfers from Guantánamo, but McCain said he hadn’t seen it.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, was among members who continue to believe the Taliban members involved in the exchange could return to the fight.

“I have every reason to believe if they want to go back to the fight they will,” Inhofe said. “Judging from their backgrounds I think they will go back to the fight.”

But Levin has come down squarely in support of the deal, citing views of military brass.

“When the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs tell me as chairman of the Armed Services Committee and try to tell the public that they very much supported this deal despite the fact that they knew that Bergdahl had left his unit. And despite the fact they knew these five Taliban were bad guys,” Levin said. “They still supported this under their ethos. That has a big impact on me so I am very much guided by their judgment.”

Humberto Sanchez and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

  • Sally

    Gee I forget. Just when did Cruz et al serve this nation in uniform? Crickets?
    And where was Mr. Concerned when Bush released 500 prisoners (er, Islamic terrorists?) for nothing in return? Crickets again. Just another excuse to question this administration’s power, no matter that they have NOT gone against the Constitution, while the GOP tramples it every day with their actions regarding women and voter rights, not to mention secret fundraising.

    • jr565

      Blah blah blah.
      When did Obama serve?
      The majority of the population is opposed to this transfer, and the majority in the military are also opposed. It wasn’t that they don’t want to start leaving people behind, but rather what we gave up to get back Bergdahl, the whitewash of his desertion and the horrible way Obama handled the issue.

    • jr565

      Releasing people from Guantanamo is not the same as trading for POW’s. Most of the people released in Guantanamo were deemed to be not dangerous (this assessment wasn’t always correct as many returned to the battle). These are high level Taliban. The people still in Guantanamo are the ones we are reasonably sure are going to return to battle us. And these five, defintely.
      So your comparison is simply not analogous.

    • LTRaczak

      Um Sally, by your own analogy, if it was wrong then it is wrong now. Thanks for making the case that much stronger. And what is your source for the 500 prisoners/Islamic terrorists released. Honestly would like to know. So the circumstances were exactly the same? Or were these insurgents fighting in Iraq? Can’t tell from your rant. Our Constitution embodies Civilian control of the military. Are you saying that is a bad idea? Appreciate your nice diversionary tactic at the end trying to lump all the talking points together. Let’s stick to the matter at hand, please.

  • creeper

    This is nuts. We already have laws governing the transfer of prisoners from Gitmo. As with immigration, we don’t need more laws. We need to enforce the laws we have.

  • gracepmc

    That the Joint Chiefs support this exchange is shameful.

    • richard40

      They were appointed by Obama, what do you expect. But I dont seen any military people underneath them having anything good to say about this deal. Obama has successfully corrupted part of the military, but he is a long way from corrupting the majority of them.

      • gracepmc

        I would hope that you are correct. All due respect, they didn’t show me much in Benghazi. Being military from way back these are unsettling considerations.

        • richard40

          Don’t blame that on the military, they could legally do nothing without a go order from Obama, which never came. That may be because there were no forces ready to go, but again that is not on the military, but on the high command, basically Obama, DOJ, and high brass appointed by Obama, for having no plan or even a possibility to prepare for such a contingency.

          • gracepmc

            Let’s leave it at that then.

  • LouAnnWatson

    “Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he would oppose the Cruz effort”

    not having to run again has it’s benefits. this is when the light of day shows who they really are

  • DES

    Top uniformed officers had to have been ordered or threatened to agree. They know the cost in lives their will be due to this reckless action. We will all be potential hostages anywhere, anytime. Lawless prez is out of control.

  • richard40

    Good idea by Cruz. Obams state dept spokesman has already said that releasing the 5 for Bergdahl was no big deal, because they plan on releasing all of the guantonimo terrorists soon anyway. Why in the world should we ever release any of these terrorists. The war is not over, even if we end up not fighting it much, until the Taliban and el Quaida says it is over, and I dont see them signing any peace agreements with us. I beleive release or transfer of any of them should be absolutely banned (no convenient loopholes), unless there is a vote on any release package in congress.

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