Two senators headed to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Friday with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, two weeks after President Obama announced a renewed effort to close the facility.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee,joined McDonough on the trip.
“We continue to believe that it is in our national interest to end detention at Guantanamo, with a safe and orderly transition of the detainees to other locations," Feinstein and McCain said in a joint statement after touring the facility and receiving briefings. “We intend to work, with a plan by Congress and the Administration together, to take the steps necessary to make that happen.”
They thanked the prison personnel for their support during the trip and for "their dedicated service in detaining the 166 individuals here in a safe and respectful way."
McCain has said that the White House is to blame for the prison's continued operation.
"The administration never came up with a coherent or cohesive plan to close Guantanamo Bay. That's why it's still open," he said in response to Obama's recent speech on the subject.
A spreading hunger strike at the prison has drawn attention to the issue of indefinite detention. Currently 103 of the 166 detainees in the prison are refusing to eat, with 41 being force-fed.
In his May 23 speech, Obama promised to restart the repatriation process for about 86 detainees at Guantanamo Bay who were cleared for transfer by an inter-agency task force but who have remained at the prison because of a combination of congressional resistance and administration reluctance to use waivers certifying that transfers are in the interest of national security. He lifted a self-imposed moratorium on transferring detainees to Yemen, the home country of a majority of Guantanamo prisoners. And he is asking Congress to lift all restrictions on transferring detainees.