As Congress debates the costs of maintaining the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center, several members of the Virginia delegation visited the island to see it firsthand. Reps. Jim Moran, Gerry Connolly and Frank Wolf, along with Sen. Tim Kaine, flew to Cuba for a tour of the facility. The trip coincided with an announcement from the Obama Administration that it would transfer two detainees to Algeria — the first transfers of their kind in nearly a year. David Hawkings, writer for the Hawkings Here Column for Roll Call, has some of the details.
On why the Virginia Delegation was bipartisan for the Guantanamo Bay center:
"Mr. Wolf is an interesting one because he's the only Republican. He is, however, the only Republican the human rights community turns to first when they're looking for a Republican to be on their side. He is co-chairman of the Human Rights Caucus... and really since he came to Congress in the early 1980s, has been the Republican who thinks about foreign policy and defense policy most from a human rights perspective. So my guess is, they are hoping to form a united front to advocate doing something different with that prison."
On whether we can expect these members to act on what they learned at the facility:
"There's not much more they can do except push Congress... essentially what they could do is expect Congress to act with the power of the purse. The only way that Congress could change the policy at Guantanamo Bay is to pass the spending bill that would restrict spending down there — either altogether or behavior or another."
On the White House announcing it would send Guantanamo Bay prisoners back to Algeria, and how the move fits into Obama's approach:
"Obama is trying to do whatever he can in his administration — we should state the obvious here, in case people don't remember this, that the president campaigned for president in 2008 on a relatively explicit promise to close the prison. He then came to office, and then started to make good on that promise, ran into criticism from Congress, and essentially gave up on his promise. He is trying now to do what he can before he leaves office to diminish the impact of the prison. The bottom line here is that if they're going to close the prison, they've got to move those prisoners somewhere else — moving them to the United States is the obvious choice."
Listen to the full analysis here.