White House Says It's In Final Stages of Drafting Plan to Close Gitmo

Press secretary Josh Earnest also told reporters Wednesday that if a major defense bill included a provision to prevent closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, President Obama would veto it.

President Obama may finally make good on a 2008 campaign promise.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday that the administration is in the final stages of drafting a plan to close the infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"The administration is in fact in the final stages of drafting a plan to safely and responsibly close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and to present that plan to Congress," Earnest said. "That has been something that our national-security officials have been working on for sometime, primarily because it's a priority of the president."

A New York Times story Tuesday reported that a meeting of Cabinet-level officials last week on the matter ended inconclusively. And Defense Secretary Ash Carter said last month that he doesn't think Obama will be able to close the prison by the end of his presidency.

It's long been a goal for the administration to close the prison. With diplomatic ties recently restored between the United States and Cuba, and Obama nearing the end of his presidency, the White House seems to be circling back to 2008 campaign promises—and closing the Guantanamo Bay prison has proven more difficult than most.

But any plan faces opposition in Congress, especially from Republicans, who have raised questions over where prisoners would be transferred and where future detainees would be held. Earnest acknowledged that "there are a range of challenges" involved in closing the prison which will require creating policies. That's "part of the planning process that's currently under way," he said.

If the plan's critics in Congress try to add a rider to prevent the prison's closing to the National Defense Authorization Act, he added, Obama would veto it.

"The president I think has made crystal clear that he strongly opposes the inclusion of provisions that inhibit the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay," he said. "And because we've made that a priority, that's why the president and his advisers have concluded that if it's included in the NDAA, the president will veto it."

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner promptly attacked Earnest's veto threat.

"The American people—and bipartisan majorities of Congress—have long opposed closing Guantanamo Bay and bringing dangerous terrorists to U.S. soil," Cory Fritz told National Journal. "Given the serious threats America faces, it's incredible to see this administration threatening to veto a bill that gives our troops a pay raise, strengthens our cybersecurity, and imposes greater restrictions on releasing terrorists."

This story has been updated.