When President Obama ran for the White House in 2008, he promised to close Guantanamo Bay prison. Since becoming President, he's faced extensive push-back from Republicans and Democrats on the issue and has gone around Congress to empty the prison by releasing enemy combatants. The most famous case was of course Obama's decision to trade five top Taliban commanders for alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl in 2014.
Despite criticism, the White House is still dedicated to shutting the prison down. Just this week former UN Ambassador and current Obama national security advisor Susan Rice claimed the administration would "die trying" to close it and plans to bring remaining detainees to prisons in the United States.
As a result, the House passed legislation late Thursday with majority votes preventing the administration from bringing detainees to the backyards of Americans. President Obama can veto the legislation, but the legislation has enough support to override a veto, which would be an embarrassment to the White House.
Glad to see the House pass the NDAA with a veto-proof 370 votes. Bill includes language barring transfer of #Guantanamo detainees to US.— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) November 5, 2015
Recent polling shows the majority of Americans oppose the closing of GITMO and overwhelmingly oppose bringing detainees to the U.S.
In a survey conducted from Jan. 15-16 of 800 likely voters, Rasmussen Reports found that 53 percent of respondents do not approve of the plan to close Guantanamo Bay, and only 29 percent support Obama’s aggressive moves. Nineteen percent of the respondents are still undecided.
President Obama still has the option of issuing an executive order to close the prison, which seems to be a likely option at this point.
“The president isn’t playing politics with this,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday. “If we continue to be rebuffed by Congress … 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.”
But rather than risking an unsustainable veto, as well as gambling on the politics of military paychecks the week of Veterans Day, the administration may be seeking to sidestep Congress.
Reports Wednesday suggested the White House planned to roll out plans to close the prison through executive order before Obama leaves office in January 2017.