House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi today defended President Barack Obama’s decision to swap five suspected Taliban members for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl without notifying Congress and said she would have supported the move if it had been done by a Republican commander in chief.
Speaking to reporters in Chicago at the end of a bus tour aimed at mobilizing women voters in the mid-term elections, Pelosi said she trusted Obama’s decision to give up the five Guantanamo Bay detainees to the Qatar government in exchange for the Taliban’s release of Bergdahl, who was held nearly five years in Afghanistan.
The exchange has prompted some members of Congress to allege Obama violated the National Defense Authorization Act for failing to notify them about the exchange 30 days in advance. Obama has said he had concerns about Bergdahl’s health, while subsequent controversy has swirled about Bergdahl’s original decision to leave his post in Afghanistan.
When he signed the defense act last year, Obama issued a statement contending parts of the law unconstitutionally infringed on the separation of powers and his role as commander in chief. Obama has defended the quick move to free Bergdahl, saying the administration saw an “opportunity.”
Pelosi said she believed Obama’s actions were in the country’s best national security interests.
“Everybody knows that if it was not possible to honor the 30 days, that he wasn’t going to,” Pelosi said. “I would hope that the president is, Democratic or Republican, would do what is right at the right time for our national security to protect the American people — whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican, so I fully support what the president did.”
Pelosi, a California Democrat and former House speaker, said she also has “confidence in the assurances the president has received about what happens next for the prisoners that were freed.”
Earlier this week, Obama said that Qatar assured it would monitor the activities of the five Guantanamo detainees, who are not supposed to leave that country for a year. Obama also said he would not have made the swap “if I thought that it was contrary to American national security.”
Pelosi’s comments came after concluding a four-day bus trip that began Sunday in Seneca Falls, N.Y., under the title of the “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: Women on a Roll” bus tour.
Joining Pelosi at Teamster City on the Near West Side for a rally with supporters were Illinois Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Robin Kelly, Brad Schneider and Downstate Democratic congressional candidate Ann Callis. Schakowsky is a member of Pelosi’s House leadership team.
Pelosi acknowledged concerns about turnout in congressional races without Obama atop the ticket.
“In an off year, we have to make sure people know that an election is occurring, what is at stake in the election and we do believe that when women vote, women will succeed and America will succeed. That is not a slogan. It’s an absolute fact,” said Pelosi, who listed an agenda that includes raising the minimum wage, paycheck parity for equal work among genders, affordable day care and mandatory paid time off work to care for sick children.
“And quite frankly, campaigns are about two things. They’re about winning an election but also about wining in the debate of ideas,” she said. “Now, if people are not going to vote, then the Republicans don’t have any reason to change their minds. But if they know women are going to vote, then they’ll take another look at these issues.”Copyright © 2015, CT Now