Speaker John Boehner challenged Democrats Friday to declare publicly whether they would support a move by President Obama to shut down the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and bring the detainees held there to the U.S.
"While Republicans stand united against this ploy, each and every Democrat should make their position known," said Boehner, in a statement from his office Friday. "Do they support the president's maneuver to override a bipartisan law, thumb his nose at the American people and the Constitution, and bring these terrorists to U.S. soil?"
Boehner's challenge to Democrats comes after The Wall Street Journal reported that senior administration officials were saying the White House is drafting several options to override congressional bans on transfers of detainees into the country.
But Boehner said Friday, "House Republicans have kept our Pledge to America to keep these terrorists out of the United States, and we will do everything within our power to keep our pledge and hold the administration accountable." He did not specify what those moves might be that are within the House Republicans' power.
There was no immediate response from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office to Boehner's challenge for Democrats to spell out whether they would support Obama.
Obama had made closing the prison—which currently has 149 inmates detained in connection with the nation's post Sept. 11, 2001, war on terrorism—one of his 2008 campaign promises. A call to shut the facility was also still included more recently as part of the 2012 Democratic Party national platform. But some civil-liberties groups and other liberals have criticized Obama's failure to carry through and find another home for the terrorism suspects being held there.
Meanwhile, Republicans and even some Democrats in Congress have repeatedly pushed back against any attempts to close the facility—arguing that the prisoners are too dangerous to move to U.S. soil
The Wall Street Journal story described senior officials as saying the president's strong preference is to shut down the prison through a legislative route but that his other options include taking executive action.
Republicans already have taken significant exception to Obama's use of executive actions to get around Congress on a number of other policy fronts, complaining that he has been sidestepping the government's system of checks and balances. House Republicans are even suing the president over charges he overstepped his authority in failing to enforce the new health care law's mandate on all employers in a timely manner.
Democrats have described that lawsuit as a waste of time and taxpayer money, and as Boehner's attempt to placate some conservatives who have been calling for impeachment.
Any such executive move regarding the closing of Guantanamo, however, might not break down so cleanly along party lines. And Boehner on Friday was seeking to press Democrats to say, one way or the other, whether they'd back such a move by Obama.
"Even as Islamic jihadists are beheading Americans, the White House is so eager to bring these terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to the United States that it is examining ways to thwart Congress and unilaterally rewrite the law," said Boehner. "Not only is this scheme dangerous, it is yet another example of what will be this administration's legacy of lawlessness."