(CNSNews.com) - Congress has expressly forbidden President Obama from transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the United States, but White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough shrugged it off on Sunday.
"What the president just said is, he's going to work with Congress, present them a plan to close (the prison), and then he'll make some final determinations," McDonough told Fox News Sunday.
"But let me be clear, the president has said from the beginning of this administration that we will close Gitmo because it's bad for our national security and because it's too costly -- $4 million per year per detainee in that facility. That's a travesty.
"We ought to make sure that we're in a position to close that facility because it strengthens us when we close it. That's what the president will do. He feels an obligation to his successor to close that. And that's why we're going to do it."
"You are going to do it? host Chris Wallace asked.
"Sure we are," McDonough said.
"Whether Congress says yes or not," Wallace said.
"The president just said that he's going to present a plan to Congress and work with Congress and then we'll make some final determinations."
And if Congress says no? Wallace asked.
"I'm not an if/then guy, Chris," McDonough responded. "I said we're going to close it. He (Obama) just said he's going to present a plan to Congress to do that."
(McDonough was referring to a video clip in which Obama, last month, told reporters, "We will wait until Congress has definitively said no to a well thought out plan with numbers attached to it before we say anything definitive about my executive authority here.")
McDonough claimed that the Obama administration has done a better job than the Bush administration in preventuung released prisoners from returning to the battlefield, although some of them do. He said the administration works closely with its allies to "make sure that we have a rock-solid agreement" to keep the former Gitmo detainees out of the fight.
Wallace asked McDonough about former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel -- "who said that you were pushing him to release people he wasn't comfortable releasing."
"Oh, I think that every secretary of defense only signs the transfer orders that he's comfortable signing. And so I -- I -- I won't go any further than that," McDonough responded.
"I'll let the secretary -- I'll let the secretaries of defense defend their positions one way or the other on that. What I am -- what I'm not willing to do is that -- and what the president's not willing to do is to make this problem, which has consumed enormous amounts of time and important relationships with our countries and allies around the world for the next president.
"He feels an obligation to the next president. He will fix this so that they don't have to be confronted with the same set of challenges."