The White House on Friday questioned a report that suggests President Obama is considering moving Guantánamo Bay detainees to the U.S. despite congressional restrictions on his ability to do so.

“We do not know what new press reports are referring to when they say the administration is ‘drafting options’ intended to ‘override a congressional ban,’ ” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting an unnamed senior administration official, said Obama wanted his staff to present him with all potential options to close to controversial prison facility, which he pledged to do in his first campaign.

ADVERTISEMENT

Those options, the Journal reported, include vetoing the next defense appropriations bill if it includes the restrictions that have been in place since 2010 to prohibit him from transferring detainees held at Guantánamo to the United States.

But Obama may also decide simply to ignore the provision of the law that says he cannot move the detainees. The White House has long argued that the restrictions are an infringement on Obama’s power as commander in chief, and presidents in the past have used "signing statements" to declare they would not comply with parts of legislation they viewed as unconstitutional.

Obama memorably ignored a requirement demanding him to inform Congress more than 30 days ahead of any prisoner transfer from the facility when he opted to trade five Taliban militants for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl earlier this summer. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were angry the president ignored the law's notification requirements.

Although White House officials said they did not know where the Journal story was coming from, they did not explicitly deny that the administration was considering bringing detainees to the U.S.

In fact, Hayden noted that the administration had “made clear many times” that it continued “to object to congressional restrictions.”

“The president has been clear about the administration’s strategy with respect to Guantánamo Bay,” she continued. “To the greatest extent possible and consistent with our national security interests, detainees will be repatriated or resettled, or prosecuted in Federal courts or military commission proceedings.”

The spokeswoman said Obama would “call on members of both parties to work together to ensure that Congress lifts the remaining restrictions and enables the closure of the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.”

White House spokesman Eric Schultz later Friday would not rule out the president taking such action.

“I can say that this is something important to the president, important to the administration, and something we are constantly working with Democrats and Republicans in Congress over,” he said.

“For many years now we have always looked at options to do this,” Schultz added. “Our position right now, our policy right now, is seeking support from Congress to lift the restrictions which we feel are misguided.”

The report has already sparked an outcry from Republicans.

“Why is the White House even discussing this as we battle a brutal enemy that has beheaded two Americans,” Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) said in a statement. “Bringing dangerous terrorists into the U.S. makes no sense and sends the wrong message to our enemies and allies.”

Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsJeffress dismisses evangelical opposition to Trump's Syria decision: Not one will 'switch their vote' Overnight Defense: Trump defends Turkey amid fierce criticism | Senators demand briefing on Syria decision | Turkey confirms strikes on Syrian border | White House says it won't cooperate on impeachment inquiry Pat Robertson 'absolutely appalled' by Trump's Syria announcement MORE (R-Kan.) also reacted angrily to the news at a campaign event in Topeka earlier Friday.

“I stopped him once from trying to send a Gitmo terrorist to Leavenworth. I shall do it again, I shall do it again, and if he tries it again I will shut down the Senate,” Roberts said.

This story was updated at 4:28 p.m.