Next Battle Between Obama and Congress May Focus on Guantánamo Bay

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GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA - OCTOBER 28: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been reviewed by U.S. Military prior to transmission)  A group of detainees kneels during an early morning Islamic prayer in their camp at the U.S. military prison for "enemy combatants" on October 28, 2009 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Although U.S. President Barack Obama pledged in his first executive order last January to close the infamous prison within a year's time, the government has been struggling to try the accused terrorists and to transfer them out ahead of the deadline. Military officials at the prison point to improved living standards and state of the art medical treatment available to detainees, but the facility's international reputation remains tied to the "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding employed under the Bush administration. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

While the controversy over President Obama’s immigration action and normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba will certainly carry into the new year, the president is already working on another bold move sure to infuriate members of Congress. Senior administration officials tell The Wall Street Journal that Obama plans to make an aggressive push to close Guantánamo Bay, which still holds 132 detainees. This month, six detainees were transferred to Uruguay and four were sent back to Afghanistan. The White House intends to return more prisoners to foreign countries in early 2015 or even before the end of the year, focusing first on the 64 detainees that have been cleared for release.

Obama is also shifting his strategy by portraying the closure of the facility in Cuba as a fiscal issue. Officials have said that some detainees would have to be transferred to the U.S. before Guantánamo can be closed, and the administration hopes that reducing the prison’s population to just a few detainees will bolster its argument that keeping the facility open isn’t cost-effective.

Obama told CNN on Sunday that in addition to being "contrary to our values," Guantánamo is "wildly expensive." "I’m going to be doing everything I can to close it," he said. "It does not make sense for us to spend millions of dollars per individual when we have a way of solving this problem that’s more consistent with our values."