Quinn, Durbin ask Obama for Guantanamo detainee pledge to break logjam for feds to buy Illinois prison

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Updated….

WASHINGTON–The Obama White House is being asked by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to provide a letter with a guarantee that detainees at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would not be sent to a nearly vacant state-owned prison in Thomson, Ill. the federal government wants to buy.

The letter is intended to address objections raised by Republicans, including Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), that detainees would end up in the northwest Illinois maximum security facility–even though the Obama White House has backed down from the plan. Republicans are worried there is no promise the matter of transfers would not come up in the future.

Update: Durbin “will in fact be sending a letter to the Administration (Friday) asking them to comply with the current law which prohibits the placement of suspected terroristsfrom Guantanamo Bay at Thomson,” his office said. End Update

Last week–on March 10–Kirk and nine of the eleven GOP Illinois members of Congress sent a letter to Obama “asking for a firm commitment from your Administration that it will abandon any and all efforts to house al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists from Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) as well as other terrorists held by the U.S. Military abroad at the Thomson Correctional Center so that Congress can focus its efforts on acquiring and operating Thomson as a maximum-security federal prison. Until such a commitment is given, Congress will not approve funds to purchase Thomson from the State of Illinois.”

Quinn spoke to seven reporters from Illinois outlets after meeting with the Illinois congressional delegation in Durbin’s Capitol office here. In Washington, Quinn also was headlining a fund-raiser for the Democratic Governor’s Association–he is the new national finance chairman–and meeting with the Federal Railroad Administration on high speed rail issues.

Quinn said that Kirk brought up at the delegation meeting the need for a guarantee, in writing -barring detainees from Thomson. Quinn said the federal government and the State of Illinois were “very close on price” for the facility, with the tab at about $180 million. Of that, the state would use $60 million to pay off debt to build Thomson and put the rest of the money for capital needs.

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