The temporary alliance between Republican Sen. John McCain and the White House continues to develop as McCain announced the administration is working on a plan to submit to Congress regarding the closure of Guantanamo Bay.
McCain stated Thursday he spoke with President Barack Obama and other administration officials several weeks ago to get the ball rolling on a closure plan that could feasibly pass through a Republican-dominated Congress.
“Ash Carter and Lisa Monaco told me that they are working on a plan,” McCain told Defense One Thursday. “My indication was when they were both sitting in the couch in my office that they were together on this and they were going to come up with a plan … they wouldn’t have come over if they weren’t [going to send it to Congress].”
McCain has already managed to make progress on the Senate side. The Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains provisions allowing the closure of Gitmo if the administration submits a detailed plan to Congress outlining the exact steps of the process, such as where detainees would be held on U.S. soil and what legal status they would have. (RELATED: McCain Snubs Republicans, Sides With Obama Administration On Gitmo)
In public, the administration disavowed the provisions when first released, reiterating as recently as Tuesday that they weren’t enough to dissuade Obama’s threat of a veto.
“I’m sure that they would rather not have had some of that [language in the defense bill], and I’m sure they would’ve rather not had the approval of Congress, but that’s the way we worked it in the committee,” McCain noted in response. “What they said was they would work on a plan to submit to us. Whether they agree with what we did on the NDAA or not, that’s another issue altogether.”
Much to the chagrin of other senators like Jim Inhofe, McCain has long advocated for the closure of the prison, despite supporting Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s bill to restrict transfers earlier this year. On Thursday, Sen. Inhofe added an amendment to the NDAA to block any transfers to the United States. If successful, the amendment could effectively render any collaboration between the White House and McCain dead in the water.
While the administration is busy working behind the scenes on closure plans, it also has its eye on the transfer of up to 10 more prisoners in June, resuming the steady pace which came to an abrupt halt in January. Exactly 122 detainees remain locked up in the facility, 57 of which are cleared for transfer. If transferred out this month, these prisoners would be the first ones moved since Ash Carter took over as Defense Secretary from Chuck Hagel, who clashed with the Obama administration over releasing prisoners and subsequently resigned.