Senators Kelly Ayotte and Mark Kirk Introduce Bills to Halt GTMO Transfers

By Cody M. Poplin
Wednesday, April 6, 2016, 2:43 PM

Hot on the heels of another transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees—this time to Senagal—and amid news that nine more detainees are likely to be transferred in the next two weeks, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced legislation yesterday that would prohibit the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility as well as bar transfers of remaining detainees to any foreign country through September 2017. The legislation is designed to prevent the Obama administration from transferring any detainees out of Guantanamo Bay.

The bill, entitled the Detaining Terrorists to Protect Americans Act of 2016, was sponsored by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), James Inhofe (R-OK), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Tim Scott (R-SC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).

According to press release from Senator Ayotte's office, the legislation would:

  • Make permanent the current prohibition on bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States;
  • Make permanent the current prohibition on construction or modification of facilities in the U.S. to house Guantanamo detainees;
  • Suspend all releases from Guantanamo to other countries until September 30, 2017;
  • Prohibit permanently the closure of U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo or its transfer to Cuba.

Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) also introduced legislation this week that would prevent the administration from transferring detainees to unstable countries or state sponsors of terrorism. The Hill notes that the countries affected would include Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria. Republican Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Cory Gardner (R-CO), James Lankford (R-OK), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) signed onto Kirk's bill. Kirk's legislation, if passed, would likely do little to change the transfer policy of the Obama administration as the location to which it transfers detainees is already limited by considerations of active hostilities and by other restrictions previously passed by Congress.

Notably, both Kirk and Ayotte are facing steep challenges to reelection and may be adopting similar campaign strategies. Not only have both introduced legislation on Guantanamo, but they have each also agreed to meet with SCOTUS-nominee Merrick Garland.