U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham joins effort to bar closing Guantanamo prison

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and three GOP Senate allies backed legislation Tuesday that would hamper President Barack Obama’s effort to move terror suspects out of Guantanamo Bay for the next two years, a proposal that would prevent the Navy’s brig in Hanahan from housing any detainees for the rest of his presidency.

“I think it will pass,” Graham said Tuesday of the effort. But he added “I don’t think the president will sign it.”

The bill, introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., would suspend international transfers of high and medium risk detainees, and extend the current prohibition on transfers to the U.S., among other restrictions.

Obama has pledged to close the U.S. terrorist detainee holding site at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Sporadic news stories have suggested the Naval Consolidated Brig in Hanahan as an alternative holding site since it has held terror suspects before.

In a Washington press conference, supporters of the bill cited the terrorist attacks in Paris for keeping the status quo.

“We’re putting a two-year ‘time-out,’” Graham, R-S.C., said, including on making high-and-medium-threat inmate transfers to other countries.

Graham and Ayotte, along with Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and Intelligence panel chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., backed the effort. All four have been critical of the administration’s desire to shutter Guantanamo. There are currently 127 inmates at the site.

The legislation would bar transfers to Yemen for two years, suspend the transfer of high- or medium-risk terror suspects for the same period and repeal current law that has allowed the administration to transfer prisoners to foreign countries and reduce the population at Guantanamo.

The bill would prohibit transfers of terror suspects to foreign countries if there has been a confirmed case where an individual was transferred from Guantanamo and engaged in any terrorist activity.

The administration has been transferring detainees cleared for movement to other countries. Five men who were held for a dozen years without charge at Guantanamo were sent to the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan for resettlement in late December.

Nearly 30 prisoners were resettled last year as part of Obama’s renewed push to close the detention center.

The administration is widely expected to object to the legislation. At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said lawmakers in both parties “have put in place obstacles that have made it very difficult for the president to succeed in the goal that he has laid out to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551