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White House expects President Obama to sign defense bill

The White House said Tuesday that it expects President Obama to sign a $607 billion defense policy bill despite provisions that would ban the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S.

Just after the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that the president still believes closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay is a "national security priority."

"Our view of those specific provisions have not changed and what the president does believe, though, is there are a number of provisions in the NDAA that are important to running and protecting the country. That's why I would expect that you would see the president sign the NDAA when it comes to his desk," Earnest said.

He added that Obama's signature wouldn't "reflect a change in our position or the intensity of our position about the need to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and the need for Congress to cooperate with us doing so."

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill Tuesday 91-3 and the House passed it last week in a 370-58 vote. Mr. Obama had vetoed an earlier version of the NDAA because it did not contain spending increases the administration and the Pentagon had been lobbying Congress for. Lawmakers, however, recently passed a new budget deal that raises those spending levels.

Congressional Republicans have repeatedly tucked provisions into bills that would block the administration from closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, which the president had promised to do after he took office nearly seven years ago.

The administration is planning to send Congress a comprehensive plan to close the prison soon, but Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has already said the detainees should remain at Guantanamo.

The plan is expected to call for the transfer of some of the prisoners to facilities in the U.S. and the transfer of other detainees to other countries. But even if Republicans reject it, the White House is not ruling out executive action.

"At this point, I would not take anything off the table in terms of the President doing everything that he can to achieve this critically important national security objective," Earnest told reporters last week.