WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, on Thursday proposed a one-year freeze on prisoner releases from Guantanamo Bay in protest of the Bergdahl prisoner swap.
Cotton proposed the freeze as an amendment to a spending bill being debated on the House floor Thursday evening. His proposal would prohibit funds from being used to transfer any of the remaining 149 detainees being held at the naval base in Cuba for the next fiscal year.
The Taliban released Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on May 31 after nearly five years of captivity in Afghanistan in exchange for five Taliban detainees who were sent to Qatar. The terms of the prison swap and President Obama’s failure to notify Congress in advance have come under heavy criticism from many Republicans, including Cotton.
Although Congress gave Obama authority to release detainees, it did so with some conditions — including that it be notified 30 days in advance.
“The President abused that authority by releasing the Taliban Five without notification,” Cotton said on the House floor. “It is imperative on our institution to reclaim that authority on principle.”
Cotton also said that a one-year delay in releasing any additional detainees would be prudent so that lawmakers have time to study how the latest swap unfolds. The five Taliban officials appear to be moving freely within Qatar and could be communicating with combatants on the battlefield.
“We should be able to take at least one year to see if such conditions are adequate to support additional releases,” he said.
Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., spoke against the Cotton amendment saying that it is morally wrong to continue holding detainees without bringing charges against them.
“These are human beings whether we want to admit that or not. To simply continue after 13 years to do nothing is wrong. We are a nation of laws,” he said.