Burr, Ayotte, Cotton, Rubio Introduce Bill to Stop Obama from Turning Over Gitmo Naval Base to Cuba

February 23, 2016

WASHINGTON – Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) late yesterday introduced a bill to prevent President Obama from giving the United States Naval base at Guantanamo Bay back to Cuba without proper Congressional approval. The Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Protection Act, S. 2559, requires the President to notify Congress if he proposes to modify, terminate, abandon or transfer the lease of the land that currently contains Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. This bill also permanently prohibits the President from modifying, terminating, abandoning, or transferring the lease without the approval, by law, of Congress.

President Obama will be traveling to Cuba next month as part of his ongoing efforts to normalize relations between the United States and the communist regime.  Cuban President Raul Castro has indicated that handing over the land to his government is a precondition of normalization. 

“President Obama’s aggressive push to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is dangerous,” said Senator Burr. “Recently, we learned that one of the former prisoners at Gitmo is back fighting for Al-Qaeda's terrorist agenda. It’s clear that the threats to the United States are increasing, not decreasing, and we need every available military asset. As President Obama continues to court the Castro regime, I believe it is important that Congress makes clear that he cannot give up our base in such a strategic location.”

"Naval Station Guantanamo Bay is a major and irreplaceable national security asset for the United States in a region that will only become more important to the safety of Americans in the future.  I will oppose any effort to relinquish U.S. control of this vital base to Cuba," said Senator Ayotte.

"President Obama's approach with the Castros has been ‘America gives, Cuba gets.' We give more trade, more remittances, released spies, and they get to keep jailing dissidents and more money to prolong a Marxist regime,” said Senator Cotton. "This bill will stop President Obama from cutting a secret side deal on his March trip to Havana and ceding control of Guantanamo Bay to the Cubans, another major concession that would be detrimental to the United States’ safety and security.”

"Since announcing the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Obama has given the Castro regime concession after concession, prioritizing political promises over national security, the integrity of America's justice system, human rights and democracy,” Senator Rubio said. “The Castro regime is already ripping the American people off and now it's demanding the return of a U.S. naval station, which has been vital to our Navy and Coast Guard operations in the Caribbean for over a century.

“Our military and intelligence services are trying to confront growing threats to our homeland, and we simply cannot hand over this critical base, especially not as the end result of President Obama's dangerous plan to release terrorists back into the battlefield or bring them to U.S. soil,” Rubio added. “Naval Station Guantanamo Bay has been an essential tool for our military to resupply U.S. ships supporting counter illicit trafficking and humanitarian missions in Latin America, as well as for mass migration contingencies. I am proud to support legislation to protect this base and keep it in American hands.”

The bill is a companion to H.R. 654, introduced by Rep. David Jolly (R-FL).

About the strategic military importance of United States Naval base at Guantanamo Bay:

The Naval Station’s current missions are to maintain a forward presence near the Windward Passage to the Caribbean, provide a base for naval refueling ships, support ongoing counter-drug operations in the Caribbean, and provide logistical support to Joint Task Force Organizations in the region. The 45 square miles of land the naval station currently resides on is also the home to Joint Task Force – Guantanamo and the Office of Military Commissions – South Detachment, which in combination are tasked with protecting national interests by detaining suspected terrorists.

Overseas bases are permanent force projection assets. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay is crucial to U.S. Southern Command's area of responsibility and assists our military's missions in the Caribbean and South America. With Venezuela on the brink of economic collapse, the naval station is as important as it has ever been. The ability of the United States to meet our obligations to worldwide naval operations, national security, and to continue to keep from the battlefield enemy elements, necessitates the continued operation of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay.