WASHINGTON — Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts is threatening to “shut down the Senate” with a Ted Cruz-style filibuster if President Barack Obama tries to thwart the congressional ban on moving Guantanamo Bay detainees into U.S. prisons.
“I stopped him once from trying to send the Gitmo terrorists to Leavenworth” prison in Kansas, Roberts said during an event in Topeka, according to Roll Call. “I shall do it again, I shall do it again and if he tries it I will shut down the Senate.”
The White House denied a Wall Street Journal report that it is considering ways to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, which could lead to detainees being transferred into the continental United States.
Despite the denial, Republicans were outraged by what they said is another attempt to sidestep Congress. Roberts, faced with a tough re-election race, said he thinks other Republicans would be with him.
“Ted Cruz did it with regards to Obamacare, if necessary I’ll do it for terrorists,” Roberts said. “I don’t know if I could do 21 hours — maybe 22 or 23. But I will have help on this. I can see John McCain there, and I can see Lindsey Graham there, and I can see Kelly Ayotte there, and I can see a whole bunch of other people there.”
Other Republicans also pounced on the report. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Obama is willing to “unilaterally rewrite the law” because he is “so eager to bring these terrorists” into the country.
“Not only is this scheme dangerous, it is yet another example of what will be this administration’s legacy of lawlessness,” he said.
Boehner also quickly sought to parlay the report into an advantage for Republicans in the Nov. 4 midterm elections, saying that “each and every Democrat should make their position known” and pledging that the House GOP would oppose any effort to keep detainees housed in Guantanamo Bay out of the United States.
The Wall Street Journal’s Friday morning report highlights another area where Obama could turn to executive action after seeing his initiatives thwarted in Congress. Already, the president has signed orders to raise the minimum wage and impose anti-discrimination rules for federal workers and contractors. He has also said he plans to announce an immigration overhaul after the midterm elections.
In response, House Republicans have sought to sue the president, arguing that he is overstepping his authority.
Obama’s options could include vetoing an annual bill setting military policy, which since 2010 has included the ban on transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees into the United States, or he could attach a signing statement saying he considers that restriction an infringement on his executive power, the Wall Street Journal reported.
However, the White House denied the report that similar action is in the works on Guantanamo Bay.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the White House doesn’t know “what new press reports are referring to when they say the administration is ‘drafting options’ intended to ‘override a congressional ban.'”
“It remains true that we continue to object to congressional restrictions, as we’ve said many times,” she said.
“To the greatest extent possible and consistent with our national security interests, detainees will be repatriated or resettled, or prosecuted in federal courts or military commission proceedings,” Hayden said.
There are now 149 detainees housed within the Guantanamo Bay facility. More than half have reportedly been approved for transfer, and some could be shipped to other countries.
The possibility of transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees into the United States could be a dangerous one for Democrats. A Gallup poll in June found that 66 percent of Americans oppose moving those detainees into U.S. prisons, while just 29 percent support doing so.