The bill would allow the transfer of terror suspects to the United States for detention and trial if the defense secretary decides that it's in the interest of national security and any public safety issues have been addressed. The bill also makes it easier for the president to transfer prisoners to foreign countries.
Currently, 104 of the 166 prisoners are on a hunger strike in a protest of their indefinite detention, with up to 44 strapped down each day and force-fed liquid nutrients through a nasal tube. The bill would authorize the temporary transfer of prisoners to a Defense Department medical facility in the United States to prevent the death of or significant harm to the health of a prisoner.
But the committee took no votes on the provisions, deciding to defer the inevitable debate until the full Senate considers the bill. Ayotte said she will be ready, and she expects to have significant support in the Senate to keep Guantanamo operating.
"While the president has said he wants to close Guantanamo, I don't think there's been a sufficient change of circumstance nor any plan laid out by the administration that could give members who voted against transfer last year any different assurances or any real new information other than an additional call to close Guantanamo again," Ayotte said.
McCain and Feinstein traveled to Guantanamo last month with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. They returned from the trip saying it was in the national interest to end detention at the facility and vowing to take the necessary steps to make it happen.
Yet even McCain concedes that the failure of the Obama administration to spell out an alternative hampers any push to close the facility.
"Really, honestly, they've never given us a plan," said McCain, who cited the cost of some $1.6 million per inmate as one argument for shutting the detention center.
Ayotte said she's a fiscal conservative, "but I believe that this facility is important for the safety of the nation and also to have a secure place to interrogate terrorists or terror suspects."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.