Amid rumors that the White House is considering administrative action that would go around Congress to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, South Carolina’s junior U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and others lashed back at the Obama Administration Thursday.
The Pentagon announced in August that it would survey facilities as potential sites to transfer the remaining detainees, including the Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston near Hanahan, Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and a closed prison in Colorado.
“The president in this latest announcement is overcooking my grits,” Scott said in a Washington press conference on Thursday. “I will tell you that there is no question in my mind that there is only one location on Earth where these enemy combatants should be and that is Gitmo.”
There are only 116 War on Terror detainees remaining at the detention center in Cuba. Current federal law explicitly prohibits bringing them to the U.S. for any reason. But the Pentagon is concerned about spiraling costs ($397 million in 2014) to hold a small number of inmates at such an isolated site. President Obama has also pledged throughout his presidency to close the prison, concerned about potential human rights abuses that civil rights groups say have occurred at the military facility.
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest did not rule out that the President would use executive actions to close Guantanamo. “At this point I would not take anything off the table,” he said during the daily press briefing. “This is a pretty transparent case of the United States Congress putting narrow political interests ahead of national security.”
Earnest told reporters the administration expected to send its plan for closing the detention facility to Capitol Hill “relatively soon.”
Scott said there is no plan or study that shows transferring prisoners from Gitmo to South Carolina or any other domestic location will make America safer. “The only place for these enemy combatants is not a domestic location, I would say it is Gitmo,” he said. “It’s an isolated location surrounded by water and deserts.”
South Carolina’s senator was joined by Republican senators Pat Roberts of Kansas and Cory Gardner of Colorado, whose states were also inspected by the Defense Department. Roberts threatened to place holds on Obama Administration nominations if the White House closes Guantanamo, while Gardner questioned how the government paid for the inspections without authorization from Congress