Obama Intervenes to Save War Supplemental

Posted June 11, 2009 at 7:37pm

President Barack Obama intervened to save the $105.9 billion war spending bill late Thursday after a conference committee stalled over the potential release of detainee abuse photos.”I deeply appreciate all you have done to help with the effort to secure funding for the troops, and assure you that I will continue to take every legal administrative remedy available to me to ensure the DoD detainee photographs are not released,” the president wrote in a letter to House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). “Should a legislative remedy prove necessary, I am committed to working with the Congress to enact legislation that achieves the objectives we share.”Before Obama’s letter, the conference committee appeared to be at an impasse, having adjourned rather than vote on an amendment by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that would keep the photos secret.He urged lawmakers to reject McConnell’s amendment because it might imperil passage of the overall bill. A lawsuit seeking the release of the photos under the Freedom of Information Act is moving through the appeals process, but Senators want to prevent any chance that they become public.Obama noted that an appeals court granted a stay keeping the photos secret Thursday while the case is appealed to the Supreme Court.To achieve passage, Obama needs the votes of liberal Democrats in the House who object to keeping the photos secret. House Republicans have vowed to oppose the legislation because it includes a $108 billion package of loans to the International Monetary Fund.The conference reconvened this evening with impassioned pleas from Obey and Inouye to support the president, despite misgivings lawmakers have about particular items in the bill. McConnell’s amendment was defeated on a party-line vote, as was an attempt by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) to kill a “cash for clunkers— provision that he complained was not paid for and was so lax in mileage standards that buying a Hummer would qualify.But the bill’s future remains uncertain. Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reiterated a threat Thursday to shut down the Senate unless the photos are kept secret either by legislation or executive order.The detainee photos have become a toxic political issue, with a unanimous Senate, Obama and even Obey supporting keeping them under wraps. Democratic and Republican Senators were both disappointed in the lack of language in the bill to keep the detainee photos confidential.”The only thing that would be gained is more hatred, more jeopardy for our troops on the battlefield, and more difficulty in Iraq,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said.