U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling has given up hope that the GOP Congressman who has single-handedly blocked the sale of the Thomson Correctional Prison to the federal government will change his mind.
State and federal officials say opening the state-owned prison to federal inmates would create 1,100 well-paid jobs just one hour north of the Quad Cities, but politics have prevented the deal from going through.
U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, could complete the sale by signing off on funding for the plan. But he won't budge because he fears the prison would be used to house foreign terrorism suspects, Rep. Schilling said.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., has signed off on reprogramming of funds to pay for the sale in the Senate.
Rep. Schilling, R-Colona, said he recently met with Rep. Wolf seeking to convince him to back the sale since plans to use it to house Guantanamo Bay detainees were scrapped long ago. But on Friday, Rep. Schilling said he had given up hope his colleague would change his position.
"The way to get around Frank Wolf is to not have to go to him for the money," Rep. Schilling said.
Rep. Schilling said to circumvent Rep. Wolf he wants to use $75 million in a Federal Bureau of Prisons fund instead of the $165 million earmarked for the project that is awaiting Rep. Wolf's signature.
But that plan would mean shorting cash-strapped Illinois, which had agreed to a sale price of $165 million, considerably below the $220 million appraised value of the maximum-security prison.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has supported the Thomson sale since the idea was raised in 2009. But on Friday, his spokeswoman Christina Mulka poured cold water on Rep. Schilling's proposal.
Ms. Mulka said it was not clear where the $75 million cited by Rep. Schilling was located and what would be needed to move the money. It also is highly unlikely the state will agree to cut the price further, she said.
Ms. Mulka said that, instead of complicating the issue, it was time to pile the pressure on Rep. Wolf.
"We are trying to turn up the pressure and it would be helpful if we had the support of the rest of the congressional delegation," she added.
Rep. Schilling said Rep. Wolf had "trust issues" with the Obama administration stemming from a 2009 incident when a plan to resettle a number of former Guantanamo Bay detainees in his Virginia district was revealed. The detainees were separatist Muslim Uighurs from China. After protests, they were not brought to the U.S.
Rep. Wolf was angered by the plan that had been kept secret by the Obama administration, according to Rep. Schilling.
Thomson once had been discussed as a possible home for Guantanamo detainees. Because of what happened with the Uighurs, Reo. Schilling said Rep. Wolf refuses to accept assurances from the Obama administration that the prison won't be used for that purpose.
Rep. Wolf's staff did not respond to requests for comment on the Thomson sale.
Today is Tuesday, May 21, the 141st day of 2013. There are 224 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: On Monday the 11th inst. on Center Ridge in Mercer County,some citizens got out their cannon to celebrate the taking of Richmond. The gun wasoverloaded and burst. No one was injured, but one 30-pound piece went though thesecond story of a house. 1888 -- 125 years ago: The old folks concert at the Harper Theater last night to benefit St.Luke's Cottage Hospital, attracted a large audience. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Unless depredation by vandals in Rock Island parks is halted,special policemen will be assigned to night duty to protect the flowers and other property. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Station WHBF has received a special citation from Washington forits participation in Air Mail Week, which was observed this week throughout the nation. 1963 -- 50 years ago: A 10-year high in employment in the Quad-City area was reachedat the end of the last quarter, according to an industrial employment barometer releasedtoday. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Pee Wee teams will be able to play baseball and softball as usualon Diamond Three at Dorrance Park this summer, but after that, the ball field is doomed.County crews have put the diamond back in shape after heavy trucks marred the playingfield earlier this spring. Illinois Department of Transportation crews drove onto it to makeborings for the relocation of the junction of Illinois 84 and the Port Byron-Hillsdale road.