Members of Congress should not be surprised their job approval rating is in the toilet. They offer so many reasons for voter unrest.
Take, for example, the political machinations of U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf's, House subcommittee, which threaten the conversion of Thomson Correctional Center to a federal lockup.
Though lawmakers talk incessantly about creating jobs, a handful of House Republicans are jeopardizing an astonishing 1,100 or more of them by keeping alive a vague and unfounded threat that if the feds buy the empty Illinois prison, terrorism suspects will be moved from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the shores of the Mississippi River.
We thought that the constant drumbeat of Gitmo warnings had at last died down. But it appears that there are no amount of assurances Rep. Wolf will accept that a federal maximum security prison at Thomson will not become home to reputed terrorists.
He and other House Republicans including, we were sorry to learn, U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, were stalling a plan to turn the unused prison an hour north of the Quad-Cities into a federal facility. The building was built in 2001 at a cost of $140 million, but never fully opened.
The 2009 proposal for a federal buyout seemed like a godsend to the Northwestern Illinois area until the specter of Gitmo was raised. Even after the plan to house Guantanamo Bay detainees there was scrapped and assurances issued that they would not be kept there, opposition continued.
On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder once again gave official word to Republicans that detainees at Guantanamo would not be brought onto U.S. soil. That, we're happy to report, was enough to convince Rep. Schilling to drop his objection and back the sale of the Thomson facility. He says he will urge Rep. Wolf and his House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, to green light the federal purchase of the prison. We welcome his conversion and his renewed enthusiasm for the effort.
He's got his work cut out for him. Though both House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act contain language that prohibits transferring foreign prisons to U.S. soil -- on the banks of the Mississippi, or elsewhere -- Rep. Wolf is reportedly worried the ban will be lifted in conference committee.
The attorney general's promise and fierce opposition -- in Congress and in the public -- to housing foreign suspects in the U.S. ought to be enough to tip the scales in the Thomson deal's favor, especially when new jobs are factored in.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., thinks so. "This should erase any doubt in the minds of members of Congress who are opposed to housing detainees on U.S. soil," he said. "It's time to move forward on a bipartisan basis to open this prison and create over 1,000 jobs in Northwest Illinois."
Thomson village board president Jerry Hebeler has heard it all before. "We've given up hope about this up here," he said. "I won't believe it until I see guards in uniform and prisoners in there." Continued delays in making that vision a reality would represent a reprehensible triumph of politics over job creation and should be judged accordingly.
Today is Saturday, May 25, the 145th day of 2013. There are 220 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: The annual review of the fire department of this city took placeyesterday and made a fine showing with machines and hose carts in tip-top order. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Last night's prayer meeting at Central Presbyterian Church wascalled off due to water in the basement, residue of last week's flood. 1913 -- 100 years ago: The junior class of Rock Island High School will hold a riverexcursion on the steamer St. Paul next Tuesday. 1938 -- 75 years ago: The 75th Anniversary of the Rock Island Arsenal today finds thenation's largest ordinance manufacturing plant filling many important orders for the army. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Miss Patrice Daly, Rock Island, a senior at Rock Island HighSchool, won second place in the recent state public speaking contest held in Peoria underthe auspices of the Knights of Pythias. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Hampton's sesquicentennial committee and the Hampton HistoricalSociety have scheduled a full slate of activities, which will be held throughout the year, to celebrate the village's 150th birthday. The first celebration will be the Memorial Dayprogram at 10 a.m. May 30, at the Brettun and Black Store Museum on River Road. Therewill be a sesquicentennial display.