Wolf: Obama Administration Violates Long-Standing Precedent in Circumventing Congress to Fund Thomson Prison

Press Release

By:  Hal Rogers Frank Wolf
Date: Oct. 2, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

In an unprecedented move, the Department of Justice (DOJ) today proceeded to acquire the Thomson Correctional Facility in Illinois for $165 million, despite the expressed opposition of the House Appropriations Committee.

Reps. Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), Chairmen of the House Committee on Appropriations and the subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) respectively, have once again expressed vehement opposition to funding the prison.

Wolf, whose subcommittee funds the DOJ, denied the request for several reasons, including that it is considered an earmark by DOJ and was originally intended to house terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay.

"President Obama's unprecedented directive to Attorney General Holder to circumvent Congress to purchase Thomson prison is deeply troubling," Wolf said. "It directly violates the clear objection of the House Appropriations Committee and goes against the bipartisan objections of members in the House and Senate, who have noted that approving this request would allow Thomson to take precedence over previously funded prisons in Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia and New Hampshire. Notably, it also flies in the face of concerns raised by scores of family members of 9/11 victims, who signed a letter in July objecting to the purchase of this prison.

"At an alarming $165 million, the size of this request is unprecedented,
he continued. "The purchase also violates the Obama administration's own policy against funding earmark requests, as the Justice Department designated Senator Durbin's request for the Thomson acquisition. Moreover, the timing of this $165 million windfall to the president's home state of Illinois, just weeks before election day, is suspect.

"Most importantly, I am concerned that this purchase will set in motion the administration's plan to close the terrorist detention facility in Guantanamo Bay by transferring terrorist detainees to U.S. maximum security prisons, like Thomson. One example of this ongoing effort is the request of Senator Durbin's colleague, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Diane Feinstein, to the Government Accountability Office to conduct a survey of U.S. prisons that could be used to hold Guantanamo Bay detainees, which is ongoing.

"Today's actions are just the latest in series of disconcerting moves by this Justice Department, including its handling of the Fast and Furious Operation, allowing nepotism in hiring, its questionable dismissal of voting rights cases and the politicization of decisions that benefit special interest groups," Wolf concluded. "This may be the most disreputable Justice Department in modern history."

Rogers agreed:

"The Obama administration has been trying for years to open Thompson prison in order to transfer terrorists from Guantanamo Bay onto U.S. soil," he said. "Congress has vehemently denied this request and has refused funding for the prison at every step of the way. The American people do not want Guantanamo detainees in the U.S., and should not have to tolerate the risk of these terrorists residing in their backyards. This back-door move by the Obama Administration to open Thompson and reject the will of Congress and the American people is dangerously irresponsible, and will be met with the full and unfettered opposition of the Appropriations Committee."

Wolf and Rogers were joined in their opposition to the funding request by bipartisan members of both the House and the Senate, including: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Wolf's Senate counterpart on the CJS Subcommittee; Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Thad Cochran (R-MS); Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH); the entire House Alabama delegation; and more than 100 families of victims of the 9/11 attacks.

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