Vice President Joseph R. Biden said Thursday that he expects President Obama to close the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before leaving office in January.
“That is my hope and expectation,” Mr. Biden said during a news conference in Sweden.
Mr. Obama has vowed to close the U.S. military prison in Cuba, but opposition from lawmakers in both parties in Congress repeatedly has blocked his efforts. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Mr. Obama isn’t giving up on his pledge.
“We’re going to do our best to try to get this closed. And it’s our expectation that that’s what we’ll do,” Mr. Earnest said.
But he acknowledged he couldn’t offer a plan for how Mr. Obama would close the facility, given congressional opposition in both parties.
“Congress has erected enormous barriers that we have to figure out a way to deal with,” Mr. Earnest said.
Guantanamo is holding 61 terrorist suspects. The Defense Department announced earlier this month that it was transferring 15 detainees to the United Arab Emirates. Of the remaining detainees, 20 have been approved for transfer when other countries agree to accept them.
“There’s still a lot of diplomatic work that needs to be done,” Mr. Earnest said.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said he would keep the facility open if he wins the White House.
Republican lawmakers assailed Mr. Biden’s comments, noting that Congress has passed legislation preventing the administration from transferring any detainees to the U.S. mainland or spending taxpayer dollars to build another prison, or even to scout out a prison site.
“It comes as no surprise that the vice president would continue his partisan mantra of closing Guantanamo Bay and sending the terrorists there either to foreign countries or to unsuspecting cities and towns in the U.S., where they can become targets for further terrorist actions,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan, South Carolina Republican. “As I’ve seen with my own eyes, the Guantanamo Bay facility is uniquely suited to holding these terrorists for the remainder of their lives, and that’s just where they should stay.”
Mr. Duncan said he will urge House Republican leaders after Labor Day to take up H.R. 617, a bill that authorizes Congress to sue the president if he violates the law by trying to move Guantanamo Bay detainees into the U.S.