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House passes bill to block Barack Obama's Guantanamo transfers

By Andrew V. Pestano
President Barack Obama, seen here during a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia on September 13, 2016, has been at odds with the U.S. Congress over his desire to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba since he took office. On Thursday, a bill passed the House of Representatives that would block Obama from transferring detainees out of Guantanamo -- though the bill is not expected to pass the Senate and the White House has threatened a veto. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/934b3d8bcddd908490d20758846b723b/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
President Barack Obama, seen here during a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia on September 13, 2016, has been at odds with the U.S. Congress over his desire to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba since he took office. On Thursday, a bill passed the House of Representatives that would block Obama from transferring detainees out of Guantanamo -- though the bill is not expected to pass the Senate and the White House has threatened a veto. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that would block transfers of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp until a 2017 military budget is passed or until President Barack Obama leaves office.

The bill -- House Resolution 5351 -- which was introduced by Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., passed with a 244-174 vote. There are 61 detainees at the detention center on the island of Cuba, about 20 of which have been cleared for transfer by the Obama administration.

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The bill is not expected to pass through the Senate and the White House has threatened to veto.

Walorski argues the bill is necessary because of occurrences of recidivism, citing a recent U.S. Director of National Intelligence report that said two former Guantanamo Bay detainees returned to terrorist activity.

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The two former detainees joined militant groups within the first six months of 2016, according to the report. Since Obama took office, nine former Guantanamo detainees have returned to militancy. The Obama administration has released 161 detainees since 2009 -- 17 of which were released this year.

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The percentage of Guantanamo detainee returning to militancy under Obama is 5.6 percent, lower than former President George W. Bush's 21.2 percent. Under the Bush administration, 532 detainees were released -- 113 of which returned to militancy.

In a statement, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., said he was pleased the House voted to halt the Obama administration's "reckless and dangerous policy of releasing detainees from terrorist prison."

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House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said continuing to hold detainees without due process is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

"We are not a dictatorship, we are not a country like Saddam Hussein used to run where he used to lock people up because he wanted to," Smith said said during debate over the bill.

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