Rand Paul Aids Surprise Guantánamo Bay Win for Obama

Three Republicans join most Senate Democrats in a vote to loosen restrictions on transferring detainees out of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, potentially leading to its closure

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Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

In a surprising win on Tuesday night, the White House and top Senate Democrats successfully defended provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would loosen restrictions on transferring detainees out of Guantánamo Bay, advancing President Obama’s goal of closing the facility by a margin of 55-43. A vote in favor of final passage on the entire NDAA is expected in early December, after which it faces a likely fight in conference with the House’s version of the bill, which maintains the transfer restrictions.

One Democratic Senate staffer who supports closing the Guantánamo Bay prison called the result, “The strongest vote that I can recall on this issue.”

As recently as early November, Democratic Senate aides participating in the fight to loosen the transfer rules described the politics of the vote as “difficult” but “not impossible” and said those whipping the vote were five or six votes short of the bare majority they needed to defend the provisions. The challenge was to win over swing-state Democrats who had opposed moves to close Gitmo in the past, and to hold supporters facing re-election in 2014.

(MORE: Seeing New Opportunity, Obama Lobbies on Key Gitmo Vote)

In Tuesday’s vote, the White House did both. It held Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Udall of Colorado, two Democratic supporters facing re-election, and won over three former Democratic opponents who are not up in 2014. That allowed Democrats Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, both of whom are in tough fights next fall, to oppose the bill.

Perhaps most surprising, and most heartening for those seeking to close Gitmo, the White House picked up three Republican votes: John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Paul’s vote suggests potential support among libertarians for the loosened transfer restrictions in the GOP-led House, but the measures still face an uphill battle before they become law. The GOP has strongly opposed measures that could lead to the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and for many that opposition remains.

Several factors have contributed to the sharp change in the political atmosphere over the issue, however. The rise of libertarian opposition to executive-branch authority, especially “law of war” powers exercised by the President, is one factor. The cost of the Gitmo facility, relative to detaining terrorists in the U.S. or abroad, is another. It costs anywhere from $900,000 to $2.7 million per inmate per year to detain a terrorist in Guantánamo Bay, whereas it costs around $60,000 a year to detain one at a supermax facility. Several al-Qaeda terrorists are currently detained at such facilities in the U.S.

The ultimate test of the politics will come in December during the House-Senate conference. The NDAA is typically one of the last bills passed before the end of the year.

13 comments
Stand_With_Rand
Stand_With_Rand

OMG Aqua Buddah.....terrible hair......stupid idiot.....moron.....teabagger.....wait.....he voted WITH the democrats?  So maybe all those attacks on Dr. Paul are unfounded?  Nah, liberals would NEVER attack someone just because they're a republican, would they??

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

It costs anywhere from $900,000 to $2.7 million per inmate per year to detain a terrorist in Guantánamo Bay, whereas it costs around $60,000 a year to detain one at a supermax facility. Several al-Qaeda terrorists are currently detained at such facilities in the U.S.

Time failed to do its homework and to list the high numbers of both domestic and foreign terrorists already locked up in the US and none have escaped.

RobertNguyen
RobertNguyen

Given all the shortage of fund we have for our military readiness - why the xxxx are we still spending $ 5 B / year holding these 106 people at Gitmo????? Why? Have the whole nation no brain???

CharlesBreece
CharlesBreece

Obama was the one that reopened it in the first place......

JohnSmith40
JohnSmith40

@Stand_With_Rand  

 No, it has nothing to do with him being a republican.  It has to do with him being an idiot.  He claimed that if you believed that everyone had a right to health care then you believed in slavery.  He is also an Ayn Rand-worshipping bigot and a plagiarizer. 

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

@CharlesBreece Reopened what? Gitmo? It never closed. There is a new prison in Illinois that Pres. Obama has proposed take them. It was Bush-Cheney who gave us the illegal, unprecedented torture, illegal secret prisons (which Bush denied) in 50 countries where over 100 inmates have died, illegally farmed out torture to other countries, lied to Americans, to Congress, and to the world via the UN, circumvented the US Constitution and US laws of habeus corpus with the war-profiteer creation of Gitmo, Abu Ghraeb, etc., illegally outed a CIA agent for political payback, engaged in actual domestic spying and warrantless wiretaps.

Compared to Bush-Cheney, Obama-Biden look like saints.

Stand_With_Rand
Stand_With_Rand

@ThomasHall @CharlesBreece and it was Obama who CONTINUED the torture, detaining citizens without due process, illegal wars, and out of control debt.

You can defend either idiot all you want, but people who defend either of the last 4 presidents are all idiots and deserve what they get!