Candice Miller for Congress, Michigan

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Obama must abandon goal of bringing Guantanamo detainees to U.S. for trials

by Candice Miller on January 5, 2011

By Jonathan Oosting |
During the first days of his presidency, President Barack Obama announced plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, a Cuban prison which he sad marked “a sad chapter in American history.”
One year later, Guantanamo remains open and Congress has thrown a wrench in Obama’s plan to transport some of the prisoners to the U.S. for trial in civilian court. U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a Macomb County Republican who will chair the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, on Tuesday essentially used that wrench to hit Obama over the head.
“The President must abandon his goal to try these enemies of our nation in civilian courts in defiance of the will of Congress and the American people,” Miller said.  “We must not provide these terrorists a taxpayer-funded public venue to spout their venom against our nation.”
While Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo earned international praise, Miller correctly pointed out that the announcement did not go over well in the states.  According to a Gallup poll conducted in May of 2009, nearly two-thirds of Americans opposed a plan that would include moving some prisoners to U.S. prisons.
Congress last month attached a provision to the 2011 Defense Authorization bill that would prevent the administration from transferring any Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. The legislation would also restrict the federal government from purchasing a state prison in the U.S. to replace Guantanamo, a possibility that caused a stir here in Michigan last year.  
The bill awaits the president’s signature, but Obama reportedly is considering appending a signing statement indicating Congress overstepped its authority by directing where terrorism suspects can be tried.
As the Washington Post points out, signing statements provide a mechanism for the president to “comment on legislation or declare that he will not enforce some part of it on constitutional or other grounds.” Obama previously indicated he would rely less on signing statements than his predecessor, George W. Bush, who issued more than any other president.
Miller called on President Obama to veto the legislation, if he so chooses, rather than issue a signing statement. Congress, of course, could then attempt to override the veto with a two-thirds majority vote.
“If President Obama believes that this provision intrudes on his authority as commander in chief, then he must agree that these detainees are not simply common criminals, but are enemy combatants captured on foreign battlefields and thus should be tried in military commissions,” she said.  “A broad bipartisan majority of both houses of Congress supported this provision which bars expending any funds for the transfer of these terrorist enemies into our nation in order to deny them access to our civilian courts.”
Miller is no stranger to the “enemy combatant” mantra.  She led the chorus when Holder decided to charge Umar Farouk Abdulumtallab, the so-called underwear bomber, in a Detroit federal court.
Congress reconvenes Thursday, and the bill in question is expected to reach the president by Monday. If he issues a signing statement, expect Miller to say something. Loudly.

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