The House Armed Services Committee today advanced a bill to condemn President Obama for releasing five Taliban leaders in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Obama didn’t notify Congress before the early June swap, which brought to an end five years of captivity for Bergdahl. The administration claims they had to make an emergency decision because of concerns about Bergdahl’s health.
Bergdahl has completed his reintegration process and is now back on active duty in Texas while the Pentagon investigates the circumstances surrounding his capture.
The bill from Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), along with Reps. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), John Barrow (D-Ga.), and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), has 90 co-sponsors.
At the markup, committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) stressed that “Section 1035 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 requires the secretary of Defense to notify the appropriate committees of Congress not later than 30 days before the transfer or release of any individual detained at GTMO. There are no waivers to this clause. No exceptions. Period.”
“There is a reason for this statute. It was written and approved by a bipartisan majority in Congress because of genuine concerns that dangerous terrorists were being released in a manner that allowed them to return to the battlefield,” McKeon said. “The provision requires the Secretary of Defense to convey detailed national security information to Congress so that Members may have a more complete understanding of the risks of sending GTMO detainees elsewhere, and what is proposed to mitigate those risks.”
After the bill markup was complete, the chairman said the committee “took one of many steps to hold the administration accountable for breaking the law and putting Americans at risk with their ill-considered transfer of senior Taliban terrorists.”
“The Armed Services Committee will also continue to insist on accountability as our official investigation into the transfer moves forward. There is still much about the president’s decision on transferring these terrorists, and the administration deliberations on informing Congress, that we must better understand,” he said. “Some might draw a partisan conclusion from today’s markup, but that is a false narrative.”
Rigell said he considered this “to be a serious matter and I am sobered by the topic.”
“In transferring the five senior members of the Taliban to the government of Qatar the president broke the law,” said the lead sponsor. “Specifically he has failed to uphold Article II Section 3 of the Constitution which states that the President must ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ and in doing so he has placed an unnecessary burden on the relationship between Congress and the administration.”