After a long bout of silence and accusations of delays, the Obama administration finally announced that plans for Congress to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay are near completion.
“The administration is 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,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
“That has been something that our national security officials have been working on for quite some time, primarily because it is a priority of the president,” Earnest added, according to Military.com.
President Barack Obama originally intended to close the facility during his first year in office, insisting its presence was used as a recruitment tool among Islamic terrorists, but quickly met with serious opposition from a Republican-dominated Congress, and even his own administration.
Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned in November partly over disagreement with the speed at which Obama wanted to transfer detainees from the prison, administration officials said.
Obama has had at least one strong ally on this issue in Congress.
Republican Sen. John McCain, himself a former prisoner of war, has pushed for closure of Gitmo. In early June, McCain stated that he discussed with Defense Secretary Ash Carter the possibility of the administration forwarding a closure plan to Congress for consideration several weeks prior.
The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision forcing Congress to at least consider the proposal. Legislators are currently trying to reconcile House and Senate versions of NDAA, which differ in the way they handle Guantanamo Bay.
“It’s still within the Administration’s power to do a lot to close the prison,” Daphne Eviatar, a lawyer for Human Rights First, told Time. “[The White House] can’t keep blaming Congress, but Congress also needs to do more. It shouldn’t be this political football anymore.”
Following the transfer of six detainees in June, 116 remain in Gitmo.
This report, by Jonah Bennett, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.