Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked an attempt to pass a non-binding resolution calling for an investigation into President Barack Obama’s decision to swap five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) asked that the Senate quickly and unanimously agree to passage of his resolution. Portman argued that the administration failed to give Congress 30 days’ notice about the prisoner swap, and said that’s a violation of the law.
“This is not an issue of politics, and no matter what party the president is from, our entire constitutional balance depends on adherence to the rule of law,” he said. “This is about more than the president ignoring Congress. The American people are the ones who deserve these answers.”
Portman added that an investigation is warranted because of Obama’s known preference for closing Guantanamo Bay.
“President Obama has made it clear that closing Guantanamo is one of his top priorities in the waning days of his administration,” he said. “I understand that, but he’s provided no such clarity on what he intends to do with the dangerous men who are housed there.”
But Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) spoke immediately after, and said he objected to Portman’s resolution because it already makes the finding that Obama violated the law, when that is not necessarily true.
“It calls for an investigation, but then it already concludes that the president violated the law,” Levin said. “That is not what I call an impartial investigation.”
Levin said legal counsel properly informed Obama that while the law passed by Congress requires 30 days’ notice, Obama also has flexibilities as president to make decisions in the best interest of Americans. He said Obama decided to use his power as president to agree to the deal more quickly in order to avoid jeopardizing Bergdahl’s life.
“I think for a number of reasons, it is inappropriate for us to adopt this resolution, and so I will object,” Levin said.