To much fanfare, on his first day in the Oval Office, President Obama
signed orders to close the detention center in Guantanamo Bay within a
year. For many liberals, it was a gratifying moment that signaled an end
to President Bush's inflated view of executive power. However, despite
having super majorities in the House and Senate, President Obama was
unable to shutter Gitmo.
Now that Republicans have gained control of the House it could prove even more difficult. As evidenced in the opinion-sphere today, conservatives are calling for the GOP to slam the brakes on Guantanamo's closure. Some Republicans have already begun pressuring the administration. J.D. Gordon, a retired Navy commander writing for AOL News, explains:
Now, with the GOP in the driver's seat in the House, and with Democrats having just the slimmest majority in the Senate, Republicans have the opportunity to force the administration to change course.Conservative Ed Morrissey at Hot Air also likes the idea of keeping Guantanamo open. He thinks calling for hearings from chair positions in the Judiciary, Armed Services and Homeland Security could force Obama's hand:
Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., next in line to serve as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, sent a telling signal to the Obama administration on Nov. 1, after a Canadian-born Guantanamo detainee named Omar Khadr finally pleaded guilty to murder after stalling for time in his five years of military commission hearings.
"The president should correct his mistaken decision, made within days of being sworn into office, that terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay would be prosecuted in U.S. civilian courts," McKeon wrote. He added that Obama "should immediately direct his administration to focus their efforts on prosecuting Guantanamo detainees in military commissions."
Meanwhile, Rep. Peter King, R- N.Y. -- next in line to head the House Homeland Security Committee -- wrote in an op-ed on Sunday that as chairman, he will "work to stop the transfer of admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators from Guantanamo to lower Manhattan for trial."
Just the action of calling the hearings would probably push the White House into capitulating on the issue, as they have mostly capitulated already after the Christmas Day and Times Square terrorist attack attempts got voters angered all over again over the administration’s policies. Obama has yet to offer a coherent argument for closing Gitmo other than for public-relations reasons, and how they can insist on trying KSM in criminal court while using the commissions system for other detainees.
Closing Gitmo and trying people captured outside of the normal law-enforcement paradigm in criminal court has already proven unrealistic. Perhaps a new GOP majority in the House will give Obama an excuse for dropping these projects altogether.