President Obama is running out of time to fulfill his 2008 campaign pledge to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.
In an ironic twist, one of his last, best hopes for meeting the promise could rest with the man he defeated in his quest for the White House: Sen. John McCain.
While the Arizona Republican and 2008 GOP nominee is one of Obama’s harshest critics on foreign policy, he supports closing the controversial prison camp, and has proposed what could be Obama’s last shot at closing the prison.
McCain’s Armed Services committee on Thursday passed a defense policy bill that would extend current restrictions on transferring detainees out of Guantánamo and restore ones from 2013, but also require the administration to submit a plan to Congress on closing the military detention facility.
The plan would include a case-by-case determination on the disposition of each remaining detainee, and address the legal challenges of bringing them to the United States. The administration would also be asked to spell out what additional legal authorities that would be needed, and how the Pentagon would treat future combatants captured under the laws of war.
If Congress approves the plan, the administration could have an opening to close the facility and achieve the closure of the facility that Congress has fought since Obama took office.
Detainees would have limited rights under the bill if transferred to the U.S., to allay concerns they would have the same rights as American citizens.