By all accounts, the president’s State of the Union won’t contain much, if any, policy. There is one issue, however, that the White House refuses to let go away: the closing of Guantanamo Bay.  Despite the president’s attempts, this issue has already been settled in Congress.

Let’s review:

  • November 5, 2015: The House passed National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 370-58.  This bill explicitly prohibits the president from transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to American soil.  This continues a bipartisan prohibition that has been in place since 2011. 
  • November 10, 2015:  The Senate passed national-defense bill with a veto-proof majority of 91 votes.
  • November 17, 2015: Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed that the law unambiguously bars the transfer of Guantanamo Bay prisoner to the United States.  AG Lynch said: “With respect to individuals being transferred to the United States (from Guantanamo Bay) the law currently does not allow for that.”
  • November 25, 2015: President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, reaffirming longstanding prohibitions on the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States.
  • December 18, 2015:  The House and Senate passed, and President Obama signed the 2016 funding bill, which includes language blocking funds for the importation of terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay.  This continues a bipartisan spending prohibition that has been in place since 2011.

As Speaker Ryan has said on the Gitmo issue: “The law is the law. It's just that clear.”