President Obama will not rule out using his executive authority to shut down the controversial military prison at Guantanamo Bay, an aide said Wednesday.
Press secretary Josh Earnest said it’s possible Obama might try to circumvent Congress if lawmakers reject the president’s latest plan to close the detention facility, which houses foreign terror suspects in Cuba.
“At this point, I would not take anything off the table in terms of the president doing everything that he can to achieve this critically important national security objective,” Earnest told reporters.
The White House is likely to unveil a new plan to shut down the prison in the coming days, according to Reuters.
Closing the prison, which has drawn international scorn, was one of Obama’s 2008 campaign promises. He began an effort to shut it down two days after taking office.
But lawmakers have repeatedly derailed his attempts, leaving the administration to release individual detainees to foreign countries in a time-consuming process. The total number of prisoners left at the facility is 113.
“This is a pretty transparent case of the United States Congress putting narrow political interests ahead of national security,” Earnest said. “That’s been a source of some disappointment for almost seven years now.”
The most recent confrontation with Congress came when Obama vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act, in part because it contained language that curbed the president’s ability to house Guantanamo detainees in the U.S.
Earnest stopped short of issuing a veto threat against a new version of the bill, which boosts defense spending under a bipartisan budget agreement but contains similar language related to Guantanamo detainees.
It’s not clear whether the president has the power to close the facility on his own.
Despite the threat of executive action, Earnest said the White House remains “committed” to working with Congress on a solution.
“We’re certainly going to respectfully engage with Congress to try to solve this problem,” he said.