The House voted 249-163 to disapprove of President Barack Obama’s transfer of five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, providing a soft rebuke of the president’s actions on the prisoner swap.
On the nonbinding resolution vote, 22 Democrats joined all 227 voting Republicans to condemn the administration for not providing the 30 days of notice required by law before transferring a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.
Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., called the prisoner swap an “obvious” violation of the law, and he said Congress needed to understand the national security risks posed by transferring detainees before such a swap takes place.
The ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith of Washington, countered that there was “considerable” debate as to whether the president overstepped his constitutional authority, and that his actions were “in no way unprecedented.” “This is a long-running debate between the legislative and the executive branch, and never before has the legislative branch stepped out on a piece of legislation like that, to censure the president,” Smith said.
Smith argued Article II of the Constitution granted the president the authority to act in the interests of national security, and, he said, that responsibility superseded his obligations to the 30-day notice found in the National Defense Authorization Act.
While Smith did say he thought the president should have notified Congress — “I think we’ve proven ourselves capable of keeping secret” — he castigated the resolution as “simply an opportunity for a Republican Congress to take a shot at a Democratic president.”
But the sponsor of the resolution, Republican Scott Rigell of Virginia, argued his legislation was not about partisan politics. Rigell said it was about holding the president accountable for breaking the law.
“And if we don’t hold the administration accountable for this, who will?” Rigell said.
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