The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App

2016 candidates respond to Obama's Guantanamo plan

The exterior of Camp Delta is seen at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, in this March 6, 2013 file photo.

Reuters/Bob Strong

Presidential hopefuls have begun responding to the Obama administration's plan for closing the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, with Democrat Bernie Sanders praising President Obama's efforts on the issue and Republicans Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump condemning them.

Sanders, stressing his support for the president's plan, said Guantanamo "has damaged the United States' moral standing and undermined our foreign policy."

"I am encouraged to see that the president is sending Congress a plan to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison," Sanders said in a statement. "As I have said for years, the prison at Guantanamo must be closed as quickly as possible."

Though he didn't mention her by name, Sanders also took the opportunity to needle his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. "Others, including my opponent, have not always agreed with me."

Clinton released a statement of her own Tuesday evening, also offering up praise for the administration's plan -- and reiterating her long support for closing the prison in Cuba.

"Over the years, Guantanamo has inspired more terrorists than it has imprisoned. It has not strengthened our national security; it has damaged it. That's why I backed closing Guantanamo as a Senator, and when I ran for President in 2008, as did both then-Senator Obama and Senator McCain," Clinton said. As President Obama's Secretary of State, I appointed a special envoy and worked with our friends and partners around the world to repatriate or resettle prisoners, with all appropriate monitoring and security. Closing Guantanamo would be a sign of strength and resolve. Congress should implement President Obama's plan as quickly and responsibly as possible."

On Tuesday, the Pentagon formally submitted a plan outlining how the Obama administration plans to shut down the controversial detention facility in Cuba. The plan involves transferring remaining prisoners to other countries and moving the remaining prisoners to another location within the United States. The plan faced opposition from congressional Republicans before the details were even released.

"I am very clear-eyed about the hurdles to finally closing Guantanamo. The politics of this are tough. If it were easy, it would have happened years ago," President Obama said Tuesday. "But given the stakes involved for our security this plan deserves fair hearing. Even in an election year we should be able to have an open, honest good faith dialogue about how to ensure our national security."

On the Republican side, Rubio strongly criticized the administration's plan while campaigning in Nevada Tuesday morning.

"This makes no sense to me," Rubio told a rally in Las Vegas. "Number one, we are not giving back an important naval base to an anti-American communist dictatorship. Number two we are not going to close Guantanamo. In fact, we shouldn't be releasing the people that are there now."

"Not only are we not going to close Guantanamo--when I am president, if we capture a terrorist alive, they are not getting a court hearing in Manhattan," he continued. "They are not going to be sent to Nevada. They are going to Guantanamo and we are going to find out everything they know."

Cruz, too, criticized the president's efforts during an event in Nevada.

"Let me say this Mr. President: don't shut down Gitmo, expand it and let's have some new terrorists there," he said at a rally in Fernley, Nev. "How on earth does any president look in the eyes of a mother or father whose son or daughter lost their lives capturing these terrorists and justify, we're going to release them again when we know a very high percentage of them are going to return to waging jihad to try to murder innocent Americans?"

Trump, speaking at a rally in Sparks, Nev., insisted that if he's elected Guantanamo will stay open.

"This morning I watched President Obama talk about Gitmo, right, Guantanamo Bay--which, by the way we are keeping open," he said. "And we're going to load it up with some bad dudes, believe me. We're going to load it up."

  • Emily Schultheis

    Emily Schultheis is a reporter/editor for CBS News Digital.