WASHINGTON (AP) - After a flare-up over controversial detainee
abuse photos, House-Senate negotiators sealed agreement on a
crucial war-funding bill Thursday night when President Barack Obama
personally guaranteed the photos would never be released.
To reassure Democratic moderates who had balked at House demands
that Congress not interfere in a lawsuit to force the release of
photos of U.S. troops abusing detainees, Obama promised to use
every available means to block their release. His powers include
issuing an order to classify the photos, thus blocking their
release under the Freedom of Information Act.
The promise came after Democratic negotiators abruptly adjourned
a public House-Senate negotiating session and White House chief of
staff Rahm Emanuel rushed to the Capitol to resolve an impasse
between Senate Democratic moderates and House liberals over the
A federal appeals court in New York withdrew its order that the
government release the photographs to give the Obama administration
time to take the dispute to the Supreme Court. The move came as a
blow to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is trying to
force the photos' release.
The compromise $106 billion war-funding bill faces House and
Senate votes next week and, if passed, would then be sent to Obama
to be signed into law.
Competing House and Senate versions of the war-funding bill
passed by wide margins in both chambers last month, but several
issues slowed House-Senate negotiations on a compromise. House
Republicans now oppose the bill over a $5 billion Obama request to
secure a $108 billion U.S. line of credit to the International
Monetary Fund to help poor countries deal with the world recession.
The House-Senate negotiating session also sealed a compromise on
dealing with Guantanamo Bay detainees. Barack Obama would be
allowed for the next four months to order the detainees into the
United States to face trial.
Through Sept. 30, detainees from the U.S. detention center in
Cuba would be allowed to be transferred to the United States only
to face trial, delaying the question of whether Guantanamo
detainees tried and convicted in military courts in the United
States would serve their prison sentences in the U.S. or other
The compromise buys the administration time as it struggles to
come up with a permanent solution to the question of what to do
with the Guantanamo detainees that would allow Obama to fulfill his
promise to close the detention facility by Jan. 22.
The Guantanamo tangle was but one of several side issues
Democrats have struggled with over the past two weeks as they have
tried to reconcile Senate and House bills funding the wars in Iraq
The tangle over detainee abuse photos came to a head because
House liberals found new leverage since their votes were crucial to
passage once House Republicans abandoned the measure over the IMF
Lawmakers from automobile manufacturing states won $1 billion
for a new "cash for clunkers" program that aims to boost new auto
sales by allowing consumers to turn in gas-guzzling cars and trucks
for vouchers toward the purchase of more fuel-efficient vehicles.
The legislation was not included in either the House or Senate
war-funding measure, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and
Susan Collins, R-Maine, protested that a provision proposed by the
House did too little to encourage purchases of fuel-efficient cars
and instead amounted to little more than a bailout of the car
companies. But lawmakers from manufacturing states, such as Senate
Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, prevailed in the talks.
The bill started out two months ago as an $83 billion request
from Obama, then morphed into a $106 billion measure brimming with
money to fight the flu, buy military cargo planes and help poor
nations weather the global economic crisis.
The numerous controversies obscured widespread support for the
core of the bill: $79.9 billion for the Pentagon, most of which is
for carrying out military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Included in that total was $2.2 billion for eight C-17 cargo
planes, manufactured by the Boeing Co., despite Obama's call to
terminate the program.
The measure provides $10.4 billion in foreign aid, including
$700 million to help Pakistani security forces fight insurgents and
$700 million in international food aid, more than double Obama's
There's also $7.7 billion to fight the flu - the World Health
Organization declared a swine flu pandemic on Thursday - far higher
than Obama's initial $1.5 billion request. Democrats rejected an
administration plan to trim part of Obama's economic stimulus law
to pay for part of an additional request submitted last week.
The measure provides $439 million requested by the top
Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Thad
Cochran of Mississippi, to restore barrier islands along his
state's coastline that Hurricane Katrina destroyed in 2005. That
came despite a promise by Obama to keep the war-funding bill free
of pet projects.
On the very week that Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,
D-Calif., appeared at the White House to tout a "pay-as-you-go"
law requiring new programs to be paid for instead of being lumped
onto the deficit, the measure would use deficit dollars for the
auto-buying subsidies programs and to give GI Bill education
benefits to the children of military service members who die while
on active duty.
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