Supplemental Conference Stalls Over Detainee Photos

Posted June 11, 2009 at 5:02pm

A conference committee on the $105.9 billion war spending bill broke up Thursday afternoon amid continued concerns by Senators that detainee abuse photos would not be kept secret and that terror suspects might be sent to the United States.

The detainee photos have become a toxic political issue, with a unanimous Senate, President Barack Obama and even House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) supporting keeping them under wraps. But many Democratic House liberals want the photos released.

The Senate version of the supplemental includes the prohibition on releasing the photos; the House version did not.

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.

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.

But Obey said the issue could wait for court rulings. He warned that the inclusion of language in the supplemental to deal with the photos would threaten its passage in the House. Obey said that if the photos are ordered released, he would be the first to seek legislation keeping them secret.

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.

The bill adds a $108 billion loan package for the International Monetary Fund opposed by House Republicans, billions for flu pandemic preparations, and a cash-for-clunkers measure aimed at spurring new car and truck sales.

Aides said that the conference committee could resume as early as Thursday evening if a final deal is worked out.