White House press secretary Josh Earnest indicated that President Barack Obama would consider executive action to close the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
“We’d like to work with Congress, but if Congress continues to refuse, I wouldn’t rule out the president using every element of his authority to make progress in the same way he has done that in other areas when Congress has refused to work constructively with the administration,” Earnest said.
Earnest took questions on the future of the Cuban prison holding terror suspects after Reuters first reported that the administration will be submitting a plan to Congress.
Pressed on the likelihood of Congress agreeing to the proposal, Earnest said, “Congress will receive something that is thoughtful and carefully considered from the administration about what we propose to do. It remains to be seen whether or not Congress will thoughtfully and carefully consider it.”
The plan would involve relocating some of the terrorist suspects into U.S. maximum-security prisons that already hold or have held terror suspects.
“We are certainly going to try to respectfully solve this problem with cooperation with the legislative branch,” Earnest said. “What I’m just saying is that, if we continue to be rebuffed by Congress, then I wouldn’t take anything off the table when it comes to our effort to try to our efforts to try to accomplish this national security priority.”
Obama vowed on his first full day in office to close the prison by the end of the year, but he has consistently faced problems from Republicans and Democrats in Congress who do not want terrorist suspects transferred to the United States.
Earnest said that it's members of Congress, not the president, who are playing politics with the closure.
“What’s the political benefit that the president expects out of this? The president is not playing politics with this issue,” Earnest said. “The president is doing what he thinks is in the best interest of the country. I would hope members of Congress in both parties would interact with the president in the same spirit.”