Senate defense bill includes path to close Gitmo

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Senators announced Thursday that they included a path to close Guantanamo Bay by transferring detainees to the U.S. in this year’s annual defense policy bill.

Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, said the transfers are dependent on President Obama coming up with a plan on how to safely and securely transfer the detainees from the Cuba detention facility to the U.S.

“The bill includes a provision that would authorize the Secretary of Defense to move Guantanamo detainees to the United States once the president provides Congress with a plan and subject to stringent security measures and legal protection,” he said.

Senators also gave themselves the opportunity to halt the president’s plan if they don’t like it. Lawmakers could vote to reject the president’s plan, though the president could then veto the disapproval. It would then be up to Congress to muster two-thirds of all lawmakers to override the president’s veto and halt the transfers.

Policies governing transfers from Guantanamo Bay have loosened over recent years, allowing for transfers of cleared prisoners if a detailed security plan is worked out between the U.S. and the receiving country. Despite that, few detainees have been transferred — only one has been transferred so far in 2014.

Current law does not allow any transfers to the U.S.

The House voted 247-177 against a proposal from Rep. Adam Smith, Washington Democrat, earlier Thursday that would have removed restrictions on transferring detainees to the U.S., suggesting the two chambers are in for some trouble in finding a compromise when they try to reconcile the two bills in conference.

The president, who supported Mr. Smith’s plan, said he would veto any defense policy bill that “continues unwarranted restrictions against Guantanamo detainees.”

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