(HAVANA) — Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., traveled to the federal detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Sunday with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
The trip came amid a mass hunger strike of more than one hundred prisoners at the most recognizable and controversial holding facility in the war on terrorism. President Obama had promised to close Guantanamo when he was running for president in 2008, but progress has long since stalled.
Last month the president publicly declared his continued commitment to closing the gates of the detention center for good.
It is notable that on this trip there is the rare occurrence of a high-level administration official joining the congressional delegation, as is the presence of top congressional leaders from both parties, both of whom hold leadership positions on committees that are instrumental to garnering legislative support on the issue.
Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has spent years lobbying to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. In late April she called on the Obama administration to transfer the 86 Guantanamo detainees that were cleared for transfer more than three years ago.
And while McCain, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been an outspoken critic of several of Obama’s overseas policies, he has also bucked many in his party as a stringent supporter of closing the detention center.
On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to keep the prison open, split on party lines.
In a statement Friday, the National Security Council’s Caitlin Hayden said that McDonough, Feinstein and McCain traveled to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay “to review the situation there and discuss the steps that we can take with the Congress to meet the President’s goal of closing the facility.”
McCain’s trip to Cuba comes less than two weeks after a trip to another controversial hot spot in American foreign policy: The senator became the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Syria since their bloody civil war began.
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