WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama doesn't plan to make an announcement about the future of the U.S.-controlled naval station and detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when he travels to the island next month, Defense Secretary Ash Carter assured members of Congress on Thursday.
Carter's remarks followed concern expressed by the Republican chairman of a House panel that Obama might use the visit to unveil a shift at Guantanamo, a sprawling installation that houses the prison and also serves as a U.S. outpost for security in the Caribbean.
"Can you assure us there's no plan for any change of our operations and historic role there," Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, asked Carter.
"I know of no such plans," Carter responded.
In a last attempt to make good on an unfulfilled campaign promise, Obama on Tuesday submitted a plan for closing the detention center to Congress, which quickly rejected the proposal.
Despite the objections, Carter made a pitch for the plan, telling panel members there are detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be safely transferred to the custody of another country.
Under Obama's plan, roughly 35 of the 91 current prisoners will be transferred to other countries in the coming months, leaving up to 60 detainees who are either facing trial by military commission or have been determined to be too dangerous to release but are not facing charges. Those detainees would be relocated to a U.S. facility.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that Republicans are taking legal steps to stop Obama from closing the prison. Ryan told reporters that lawmakers have the votes to block Obama's plan in Congress and enough votes to override any veto. Separately, the Wisconsin Republican said the GOP is "preparing our legal challenge" to ensure the prison remains open and detainees aren't moved to the U.S.
Earlier this month, House Republicans awarded the Jones Day law firm a $150,000 contract to perform the legal work in case Obama tries to move Guantanamo detainees to federal prisons.
"These detainees cannot come to American soil," Ryan said.