Five U.S. senators, all Republicans, have joined the opposition to the proposed sale of Thomson Correctional Center. |
Illinois has agreed to sell the empty prison to the federal government for $165 million, which would create an estimated 1,100 jobs at the prison about an hour north of the Quad Cities. But U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., has used his position as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science to block the agreement.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had requested Rep. Wolf and his counterpart in the Senate "reprogram" funds for the sale, which would complete the purchase without the need for a vote by Congress.
On Thursday, five GOP senators wrote to Mr. Holder to make their opposition to the sale clear. The five -- U.S. Sens. Pete Sessions, R-Texas., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H and Thad Cochran, R-Miss. -- criticized the method proposed to fund the sale as "fiscally irresponsible" and lacking transparency.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, support the prison sale and have tried to pressure Rep. Wolf into signing off on the agreement. But Rep. Wolf has remained steadfast in his opposition, arguing there are four new federal prisons in West Virginia, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Alabama waiting for funding to open. Diverting money for the Thomson deal could delay those projects, he has said.
Wednesday's letter by the five senators was the latest in a series of lawmakers' letters to Mr. Holder opposing the Thomson deal.
Rep. Schilling and Sen. Durbin remain committed to completing the sale, which they say would ease overcrowding in the federal system and provide a significant economic boost to the region.
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