White House: Guantánamo Closure Remains Obama Priority (Updated) (Video)
Updated 5:51 p.m. | President Barack Obama’s veto threat over the National Defense Authorization Act isn’t just about the money.
“The current version that was passed through the House of Representatives is something that the president would veto principally because of this — of the irresponsible way that it funds our national defense priorities, but also because of the efforts to prevent the closure [of] the prison at Guantánamo Bay,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday. “So our position on this hasn’t changed. We continue to feel strongly about it.”
In July, Earnest said Obama “will veto” the bill if it includes the Guantánamo provisions . Earnest told reporters Monday the president has the votes to sustain a veto.
(Related: Reid Vows to Uphold Veto on NDAA)
“So this is an indication that Republicans are gonna need to find a way to work with Democrats to put forward a National Defense Authorization Act that will earn not just the support of Congress, but also the support of the commander in chief,” he said.
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., has said the White House promised him a plan to close the prison, but has yet to present one. Without that, he has said he wouldn’t be able to find the votes to do what the White House wants.
And there are certainly people on Capitol Hill who wonder whether Obama will ultimately veto the bill — or the next version, if a budget deal is reached — over Guantánamo. The defense policy bill has become law for more than 50 years in a row, and Obama has signed it every year despite issuing veto threats over the military prison in Cuba.
Raha Wala, senior counsel at Human Rights First, noted Obama’s threatened vetoes before.
“We’ve heard many times that the president would veto bills over Guantánamo restrictions, and he’s never done it,” Wala said in an email. “What we need now is action. The Defense Authorization would prevent the president from closing Guantánamo before he leaves office. If he wants to close Guantánamo, the president must veto the bill and demand that Congress remove the restrictions on transferring detainees.”