President Barack Obama told someone at a bookstore over the weekend he was working on closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but he appears to be getting ready for what has become a traditional year-end cave on the issue.
It now seems all-but-certain the president will sign the National Defense Authorization Act, despite the expected inclusion of language effectively banning him from transferring Gitmo prisoners to U.S. soil — despite an earlier vow to veto such a bill.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that, as in previous years, the White House will criticize Congress for including the language.
But he didn't throw down the same veto threat his predecessor, Jay Carney, made earlier this year .
"As has been the case for the last several years, we do anticipate that there will be additional language in this legislation that will limit the president's ability to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay," Earnest told reporters at Tuesday's briefing. "That's something that we have been, frankly, pretty critical of in the past. If it's included in there, again, it's something we'll be critical of again."
As for vetoing the bill, "we're going to evaluate the whole package," Earnest said.
That means the Guantánamo language isn't a deal-breaker on its own.
And if the White House really wanted to kill that provision, now would have been the time to make that clear.
On Saturday, Obama was asked by someone about closing Guantanamo while buying books at Politics & Prose.
"We're working on it," Obama said.
In May, then-Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama "will veto " the NDAA if it included the language.
“Nearly a half billion dollars per year is an unacceptable price to pay for a facility that wastes our resources, creates friction with our allies, and undermines our standing in the world. This needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions and enables the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. We call on Members of both parties to work together to ensure the United States meets this goal. If this year’s Defense Authorization bill continues unwarranted restrictions regarding Guantanamo detainees, the President will veto the bill.”The defense authorization bill has been signed into law every year for more than 50 years.
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