WASHINGTON — Newly empowered Republican senators on Tuesday unveiled new restrictions on President Barack Obama's ability to transfer terror suspects out of the federal prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as he pushes to close the naval facility.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire introduced the far-reaching legislation "to extend and enhance prohibitions and limitations with respect to the transfer or release of individuals detained" at Guantanamo, a measure certain to draw opposition from the Obama administration.
Joining Ayotte in backing the measure were Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain of Arizona, Intelligence committee chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
The measure would bar the use of any government funds, whether in the budget for the Defense Department or in any other agency, to construct or modify facilities in the United States to house terror suspects.
It also would repeal current law that has allowed the administration to transfer prisoners to foreign countries and reduce the population at Guantanamo to 127. The bill would prohibit transfers of terror suspects to foreign countries if there has been a confirmed case where an individual was transferred from Guantanamo and engaged in any terrorist activity.
Obama has pushed to close Guantanamo since his inauguration in January 2009, but has faced strong opposition from congressional Republicans and some Democrats who argued that the facility is the best location for terror suspects since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Past laws have repeatedly included provisions barring any transfer of terror suspects to U.S. prisons.
The administration has been transferring detainees cleared for movement to other countries. Five men who were held for a dozen years without charge at Guantanamo were sent to the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan for resettlement in late December.
Nearly 30 prisoners were resettled in third countries last year as part of Obama's renewed push to close the detention center.
The bill also would prohibit the transfer of terror suspects considered to be high-risk or medium-risk. The administration is currently conducting an assessment of all detainees at the facility.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the legislation.