Lawmakers to unveil resolution condemning Obama for Bergdahl prisoner swap


Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), photographed in 2011. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Updated 12:22 p.m. ET

Four House lawmakers -- two Republicans and two Democrats -- plan to introduce a resolution condemning President Obama's decision to release five Taliban detainees in exchange for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Reps. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), John Barrow (D-Ga.) and Nick Rahall (D-W. Va.) plan to introduce the resolution later Wednesday, according to a statement obtained first by The Washington Post and aides familiar with their plans.

Support for the nonbinding resolution is unclear -- especially in the wake of the stunning defeat of House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.), a development expected to upend the House legislative agenda in the coming days.

But the resolution should prove popular with Americans: A majority disapprove of the deal that freed Bergdahl from his Taliban captors, and nearly three-quarters think he should face criminal charges if he deserted his unit, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. If it is shown that Bergdahl did indeed desert his post, 73 percent say that he should be charged with a military crime, according to the poll. Twenty percent oppose charging Bergdahl. Support for such charges is nearly universal, with 70 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans agreeing.

The quartet of lawmakers sponsoring the resolution are lesser-known on Capitol Hill, but Rigell wrote a letter to President Obama last September asking that he consult Congress before launching any U.S. military strike on Syria. The move mushroomed into widespread bipartisan opposition to military action against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Obama ultimately opted against using military action, partly because of congressional resistance.

If passed, the resolution would put the House on the record as "condemning and disapproving of the President's failure to comply with the lawful statutory requirement of Congressional notification prior to the release of detainees from the United States detention facility at Guantanamo Bay," according to the forthcoming release.

Rigell said his resolution will demonstrate that Obama's decision to release the detainees "is unacceptable."

"Frustration with the Administration on its handling of this matter is very high, and bipartisan," he adds. "I expect that more members in the days ahead will join us in supporting the resolution, and we will press the leadership of the House to bring this resolution to the House floor for a vote, which I fully expect would pass with strong bipartisan support."

Barrow said that after attending classified briefings about Bergdahl's rescue this week he's concerned that the White House failed to give proper notice to Congress of plans to swap five detainees to secure Bergdahl's freedom. "Checks and balances aren’t negotiable. Congress is ready to listen, and it's critical that the Administration not treat Congress as an adversary or as an afterthought."

Rigell's inclusion of Barrow and Rahall is notable, but they are among the most vulnerable Democrats seeking reelection this year and among a small handful of Democrats who frequently vote with Republicans on higher-profile legislation, including proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Cosponsoring a resolution that puts the House on record as strongly opposed to Obama's actions will only buoy their efforts in districts where the Democratic Party and the president are increasingly unpopular.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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