House Rejects Measure to End War on Terror: Senate Hawks Seek to Extend President's War Powers
May 23, 2014
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Michael McAuliff / The Huffington Post
House Democratic Adam Schiff's efforts to repeal the 2001 Authorization on the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which the Bush and Obama Administrations have used as the legal cover for virtually all military operations since 9/11, failed today in a 191-233 vote. The Senate's AUMF efforts don't look promising either, with some now arguing in favor of "revisions" that would greatly expand the war powers to authorize President Obama's attacks on groups not even cursorily linked to al-Qaeda.
House Rejects Measure to End War on Terror
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(May 22, 2014) -- Rep. Adam Schiff's (D - CA) efforts to repeal the 2001 Authorization on the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which the Bush and Obama Administrations have used as the legal cover for virtually all military operations since, failed today in a 191-233 vote. [Click here to see how individual members of the Hours voted.]
The bill had initially been seen as having some administration support, but that myth evaporated after yesterday's fiasco in the Senate, where officials argued the AUMF had nothing to do with anything, and that President Obama would attack whomever he pleased, whenever he pleased. The officials came out for vague, non-specific changes to AUMF, but not for repeal.
This led hawks to angrily condemn Rep. Schiff's bill, with Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) accusing him of having "forgotten" 9/11. The Senate's AUMF efforts don't look promising either, with some now arguing in favor of "revisions" that would greatly expand the war powers to authorize President Obama's attacks on groups not even cursorily linked to al-Qaeda.
Underscoring just how little appetite there is for even the illusion of change, Rep. Adam Smith (D -WA) introduced an amendment to allow transfer of Gitmo detainees, something President Obama demanded, and that too was rejected. The White House had threatened a veto if they didn't get this, but where they stand now is unclear.
In the end, the $601 billion military spending bill, which was bigger than even the Pentagon sought, passed easily in a 325-98 vote, and is now just waiting for the Senate to come up with their version, so they can reconcile the two.
White House Vows
Defense Bill Veto Over Gitmo
Michael McAuliff / The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON (May 22, 2014) -- More than five years after President Barack Obama first pledged to close the military's Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba for terrorism suspects, the White House drew a new line in the sand Wednesday, vowing to veto the massive National Defense Authorization Act if Congress doesn't end restrictions on transferring detainees.
Obama vowed to close the prison in his first inaugural address, and signed an executive order soon afterward ordering it closed within a year. But Congress intervened, repeatedly passing laws that forbid the White House from transferring detainees, or spending money to do so.
Obama has objected to the restrictions every year since since, and has repeatedly threatened to veto the defense bill, but never did. The administration made a similar threat earlier this week, saying Obama's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the NDAA if the Gitmo restrictions remain.
The White House took that a step farther Wednesday evening, with spokesman Jay Carney issuing an unequivocal promise soon after Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) offered an amendment in House floor debate to close the facility, which he said costs about $2.7 million per year for each of the 154 inmates who remain there. Most of the inmates have not been charged with crimes, and about half have been cleared for release.
Here is Carney's statement:
The President applauds Ranking Member Adam Smith for his continued stalwart leadership in standing up for our values and national security by advancing the cause of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. By eliminating unwarranted and burdensome restrictions relating to the transfer of Guantanamo detainees, his amendment would further our efforts to move past this chapter in US history.
We urge the House to adopt the Smith Amendment and put an end to the ongoing harm to the nation's security that results from the operation of the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
This Administration has repeatedly objected to statutory restrictions that impede our ability to responsibly close the detention facility and pursue appropriate options for the detainees remaining there, including by determining when and where to prosecute detainees, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests. In hundreds of terrorism-related cases -- and as illustrated once again this week -- our federal courts have proven themselves to be more than capable of administering justice.
Nearly a half billion dollars per year is an unacceptable price to pay for a facility that wastes our resources, creates friction with our allies, and undermines our standing in the world. This needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions and enables the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
We call on Members of both parties to work together to ensure the United States meets this goal. If this year's Defense Authorization bill continues unwarranted restrictions regarding Guantanamo detainees, the President will veto the bill.
A vote on Smith's amendment is expected Thursday, as well as passage of the defense bill. The Senate has just started work on its version of the legislation.
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