Thursday, December 17, 2009

Durbin Defends Plans for Illinois Prison Purchase

Dec. 17, 2009 – 1:36 p.m.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin hit back hard Thursday against GOP criticism of President Obama’s decision to buy a prison in Durbin’s home state of Illinois to house Guantánamo Bay detainees.

The partisan sniping is a sign of the continuing political volatility of the issue. If the administration wants to move any detainees into the United States for indefinite imprisonment before the Sept. 30 end of fiscal 2010, Congress will have to authorize it.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky took to the Senate floor on Wednesday in opposition to the move. McConnell said moving the detainees to a facility in Thomson, Ill., would “increase the threat to security at home.”

McConnell also criticized the efforts of both the administration and Durbin to cast the move as economically beneficial to Thomson and the surrounding area.

In a letter to McConnell on Thursday, Durbin said that state and local officials in Illinois are welcoming the prospect of detainees being incarcerated there.

“We’re not scared by vague predictions of escape attempts or terrorist attacks,” Durbin wrote.

Durbin said he hoped to talk to McConnell about the subject “before you take to the floor again with inaccurate and incomplete information.”

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