House Republicans are set to open another front next week in their efforts to publicly repudiate President Obama — this time for his decision in May to exchange five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Only this time it won’t be a purely partisan assault. Some Democrats have signed on with Republicans to condemn Obama for approving the prisoner swap.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon says his panel will mark up a bipartisan resolution on Tuesday that accuses Obama of disregarding “America’s long-standing policy against negotiating with terrorists.”
The resolution will further declare that the transfer was in violation of a section of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, which requires the secretary of Defense to notify Congress at least 30 days before the transfer of a Guantanamo detainee.
Republican Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia is the sponsor, along with GOP Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin and Democratic Reps. Nick Rahall of West Virginia and John Barrow of Georgia.
“When the president takes his oath of office, he is duty bound to follow the laws set by the American people,” McKeon said in a statement. “Here, his office broke a law that was originally adopted by his own party in the Senate, passed by a large bipartisan majority in Congress and signed by the president himself.”
McKeon added: “Just as the president must do his duty, so must Congress. Congressman Rigell’s legislation sends the clear message that following the law isn’t optional.”
The administration says that concerns about Bergdahl’s deteriorating health played a role in its thinking.
Bergdahl, 28, went missing on June 30, 2009, in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province, where his battalion was deployed. He had spent five years in captivity until his release on May 31 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners transferred from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In his own statement Thursday, Rigell said his resolution will be an official, bipartisan repudiation of Obama’s actions.
Although the action was not announced until Thursday, it has actually been in the planning stages since June. In fact, House Republican leadership aides back then confirmed that closed-door strategy sessions by top Republicans were already underway on how to best seize on the Bergdahl swap, seen as angering members of both parties. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul was even saying in June that the issue would have a long shelf life politically.
“Not only is it a winner because it was horrible foreign policy,” McCaul said. There are also a lot of elements for lawmakers to cover in the Bergdahl controversy, he said.
McCaul said those include the risks of negotiating with terrorists, why Congress wasn’t kept in the loop, and whether this swap signals plans by the Obama administration to release all prisoners and close the Guantanamo prison over congressional objections.
“You know me, I’m pretty much more of a national security kind of guy and I don’t really engage in a lot of partisan politics,” McCaul said. But still, he said, “I think this probably has more legs than any other story I’ve seen.”
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