Republicans Condemn Bergdahl Swap

"Congress was not able to consider the risk to the American people or our troops in harms way," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon said regarding the swap. "Congress was not able to consider the risk to the American people or our troops in harms way," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon said regarding the swap. Flickr user talkradionews

House Republicans condemned President Obama for failing to notify Congress in advance of the May swap of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban members.

But with the House expected to vote this week to allow a lawsuit against the president, multiple Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee said Tuesday that the resolution was nothing more than "political theater."

The resolution, introduced by Republican Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia, says Obama failed to follow the law by not notifying Congress 30 days ahead of the swap earlier this year, as required under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014.

Bergdahl went missing in June 2009 from his base in Afghanistan. He was held by the Taliban and was freed in May in exchange for the release of five Taliban members who were being detained at Guantanamo Bay. The prisoners, who were transferred to Qatar, are not allowed to leave the Middle Eastern country for a year.

"Congress was not able to consider the risk to the American people or our troops in harms way," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon said regarding the swap.

Rigell and other lawmakers said they have concerns about the national security implications of the Bergdahl exchange because it suggests the United States will negotiate with terrorists, but added they are also "relieved" that Bergdahl is back in the United States.

Rigell said he believes Obama's decision to not notify Congress before the swap was "unnecessary" and "harmed our relationship with the administration."

Administration officials told lawmakers earlier this year that after consulting with the Justice Department, they concluded they did not have to notify Congress 30 days in advance because of a legal loophole.

Officials also suggested that notifying Congress would have put the swap, and Bergdahl's life, at unnecessary risk.

Asked if the administration would follow the 30-day requirement in the future, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the administration would follow the requirement "unless there is an extraordinary set of circumstances."

Committee Democrats largely agreed that the administration should have given prior notification, but they felt the Republican-backed legislation went too far. Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii were the only Democrats to support Rigell's proposal.

Committee ranking member Adam Smith of Washington state offered an amendment to the resolution, which was ultimately rejected. He and other Democrats on the panel suggested that Rigell's resolution could appear partisan, because it contends the administration knowingly violated the law.

"[Prisoner swaps] are very, very difficult decisions to make," Smith said. "I do not think it is appropriate for this Congress to condemn the president for making that decision."

Smith's amendment instead would have noted that the administration and lawmakers had a disagreement on how to interpret the law.

And Tuesday's hearing comes at a potentially precarious time for lawmakers, with the House expected to authorize a lawsuit against Obama this week.

"This is happening in the context of a vote tomorrow to authorize a lawsuit against the president of the United States," said Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney, calling the larger argument a "600-pound gorilla."

(Image via Flickr user talkradionews)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.