It will be "very, very difficult" for President Obama to fulfill his campaign promise of closing Guantanamo Bay without help from Congress, the White House said Tuesday.
"Members of Congress, and this is actually true of both parties, not just Republicans, have put in place obstacles that have made it very difficult for the president to succeed in the goal that he has laid out to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
Many lawmakers are skittish about the prospect of moving prisoners to the U.S., with concerns they could prove a political liability if housed in their districts. Civil rights groups have also said bringing prisoners who are being held without trial would further erode the rule of law.
"There continues to be an open question about how those cases will be resolved, given that the president himself has indicated, as have national security leaders who have served both Democratic and Republican administrations, that it's in the clear national security interest of the United States to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay," Earnest said.
There has been some speculation that Obama could use executive action to bypass congressional restrictions on detainee transfers. The administration has questioned the legality of those restrictions. But Earnest on Tuesday seemed to indicate that the White House saw limits on its abilities to circumvent Congress.
"Presumably, if we had a lot of options for overcoming those obstacles that Congress has thrown up, then we probably would have used at least some of them already," Earnest said.
Still, the spokesman said he remained hopeful lawmakers would come around and support closing the facility.
"This is something that we're going to continue to work on," Earnest said.