Republican Senators Push to Restrict Guantanamo Transfers

The proposed amendment poses the latest challenge to the president’s wish to close the facility.

PERRY, GA - DECEMBER 1:   U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) talks with supporters as he campaigns on December 1, 2008 in Perry, Georgia. Chambliss is up against Democrat Jim Martin in a runoff election for the U.S. Senate seat tomorrow.  (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)
National Journal
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Jordain Carney
Nov. 14, 2013, 11:51 a.m.

Sen. Saxby Cham­b­liss, R-Ga., told The Hill on Thursday that he is work­ing with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., to re­strict the trans­fer of Guantanamo Bay de­tain­ees to Ye­men.

The two sen­at­ors are hop­ing to have their amend­ment in­cluded in the Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act, which is ex­pec­ted to be brought to the Sen­ate floor next week. It would re­move pro­vi­sions cur­rently in the le­gis­la­tion that would ease re­stric­tions on trans­fers of Ye­meni de­tain­ees back to their home coun­try.

The amend­ment, if ul­ti­mately ap­proved, could be prob­lem­at­ic for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which in late May an­nounced that it was lift­ing a 2010 ban on trans­fer­ring Ye­meni de­tain­ees back to Ye­men. Of the ap­prox­im­ately 86 de­tain­ees that had been ap­proved for trans­fer pri­or to the pres­id­ent’s speech, 56 are from Ye­men. It would also com­plic­ate the pres­id­ent’s long-stated goal of clos­ing the pris­on. The ad­min­is­tra­tion has faced a myri­ad of chal­lenges—ran­ging from leg­al and polit­ic­al hurdles to na­tion­al se­cur­ity con­cerns—on how to ac­com­plish the task.

The House passed its ver­sion of the De­fense bill over the sum­mer, and it in­cludes the re­stric­tions on trans­fers. Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Carl Lev­in, D-Mich., said he be­lieves any Guantanamo-re­lated amend­ment will need to get 60 votes to pass.

Cham­b­liss and Ayotte have pre­vi­ously said they sup­port keep­ing Guantanamo open.