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Ayotte Announces Opposition to Obama Plan to Close Gitmo

Campaign accuses Dem Hassan of being ‘MIA’ in Guantanamo Bay debate

Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base / AP
• February 23, 2016 1:55 pm

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New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte renewed her effort to keep suspected terrorists confined to Guantanamo Bay, while calling out her Democratic rival for refusing to stake out a position on the War on Terror on Tuesday.

Ayotte teamed up with Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.), Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) to block any attempt from the Obama administration to close the military prison that has houses suspected terrorists captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq and transfer them to the United States.

The bill, titled the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Protection Act, was released shortly after Obama called on the United States to shutdown the prison, which is nicknamed Gitmo. Ayotte’s proposal would force Obama to seek congressional approval before making any changes to the U.S. ownership of the Cuban base.

"The president may not modify, terminate, abandon, or transfer the lease with the Government of Cuba by which the United States acquired 45-square miles of land and waters that currently contain Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, unless the president notifies Congress … and after such notification, Congress enacts a law authorizing that modification, termination, abandonment, or transfer," the bill says.

President Obama laid out a basic framework for the closing of the base on Tuesday, saying that terrorists would be transferred depending on their potential risk to the United States with the biggest threats subject to military trials.

He had promised on the campaign trail in 2008 to close the base, but has not succeeded in persuading Congress follow through on that promise, despite having overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of congress when he first took office. A 2009 attempt to house Gitmo inmates in his home state of Illinois faltered after congress blocked funding for the transfer.

Ayotte has been unequivocal about her support for the prison and the use of military rather than civilian courts to conduct trials of suspected terrorists. She called the base a "major and irreplaceable national security asset" in the War on Terror.

"Naval Station Guantanamo Bay is a major and irreplaceable national security asset for the United States in a region that will only become more important to the safety of Americans in the future," Ayotte said in a release. "I will oppose any effort to relinquish U.S. control of this vital base to Cuba."

The freshman Republican senator has made national security a central theme of her first reelection bid against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Hassan said that she was open to the idea of shutting down Gitmo when she announced her Senate bid in October and was an early backer of Hillary Clinton, who as secretary of state called for the base’s closure.

"The governor believes that our first priority must always be to keep our citizens safe and protect America’s security, and that Guantanamo should not be closed until there’s a concrete plan in place to ensure the safety of our citizens and that prisoners won’t return to the battlefield," Hassan spokesman Aaron Jacobs told New Hampshire’s WMUR in February. "The governor will review the administration's proposal when it is released."

The Hassan campaign did not respond when asked about the governor’s position on the base’s closure in light of Obama’s proposal.

The Ayotte campaign called on Hassan to clarify her position in a press release titled, "Maggie is MIA Again on Guantanamo."

"Hassan has been missing in action on a range of critical national security issues, and her refusal to tell voters where she stands on closing Guantanamo Bay is just the latest example," campaign spokeswoman Chloe Rockow said in a release. "It's time for Hassan to be up front with New Hampshire voters about whether she supports the president's dangerous plan, which would make Americans less safe."

Published under: Guantanamo, Kelly Ayotte