The White House is pouring cold water on a report it is delaying a plan to close the terrorist detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, saying the blueprint remains under construction.
A delay would amount to yet another blow to President Barack Obama’s quest to shutter the controversial prison and transfer some prisoners to U.S. soil. A senior administration official told CQ Roll Call Wednesday night the plan “will be delivered to Congress when complete” because closing the facility “remains a priority for President Obama.” The plan was expected to be released late last week, but it never surfaced. With Obama traveling to Turkey then Asia this week, and with the Paris terrorist attacks only days old, conventional wisdom in Washington was the plan would be released after Obama’s return.
But a Politico article published online late Wednesday afternoon stated the White House had decided to delay submitting its much-anticipated plan to Congress. That report prompted Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to issue statements supporting such a delay.
“As the president has repeatedly said, the continued operation of the facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners and emboldening violent extremists,” the senior administration official said after the GOP leaders issued their statements.
Lawmakers Preempt Obama on Guantanamo
One House GOP aide acknowledged the speaker’s office issued its statement in response to the Politico article, adding Ryan has not been informed of any delay by the Obama administration.
The office of Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, an Obama ally on Gitmo's future, said it has not received any information from the administration.
House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, however, was informed by the Pentagon the plan was being placed on hold, according to a committee spokesperson.
“The administration continues to work diligently on completing the plan to safely and responsibly close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay,” said Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross. “We are currently working to refine additional cost estimates for different aspects of detainee operations. While we don't have a specific timeline, the plan will be delivered to Congress as soon as it is complete.”
Connor O’Brien and Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report. Related: White House Hits GOP’s Legal ‘Track Record’ in Gitmo Standoff