Legislators had blocked the prison's purchase for years. Most recently, Rep. Frank WolfFrank WolfLobbying World Supreme Court weighs legality of Virginia redistricting Global crisis of religious persecution needs a Congressional response MORE (R-Va.), the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, blocked the prison's purchase fearing that the Obama administration would use it to house terrorists.
In 2008 Democrats attempted to buy the prison for transferring over Guantánamo Bay prisoners, but after strong resistance dropped the effort. Now, federal law keeps the prison from receiving Guantánamo detainees. The Obama administration has also repeatedly said that it would not move terrorists to the prison.
Durbin and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D), both proponents of the prison's purchase, say buying it will create more than 1,000 jobs in Illinois. According to the Chicago Tribune, Durbin said he spoke with Obama earlier in the year and that the president agreed to move forward with the prison's purchase, even if Wolf continued to resist buying the prison.
Similar to Wolf's statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellGarland confirmation vital to fair consideration of SCOTUS cases GOP urged to confirm Supreme Court nominee after Trump win Different playbooks for Ryan, McConnell in wild 2016 MORE (R-Ky.) labeled the directive an "election-eve purchase."
"It is clear that the funding law that Sen. Durbin voted for and President Obama signed does not suddenly authorize what Congress has repeatedly denied. This election-eve purchase comes at the expense of delaying approved projects that are not in the President’s home state," McConnell said in a statement.
"And there is overwhelming, bipartisan opposition to the President’s plan to transfer terrorists from the secure detention facility at Guantanamo bay into the United States," McConnell continues in his statement. "Terrorists don’t deserve the same legal rights as the Americans they’re targeting. We should be focused on stopping terrorists, not defending them. And Americans would rather their tax dollars be spent preventing attacks from terrorists, than spent bringing them into their cities and towns as the Obama administration has repeatedly tried to achieve."
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said he did not believe the Obama administration's promise not to use the prison for terrorists.
"Obama Administration officials today promised that Guantanamo terrorists will not be transferred to the Thomson prison, citing Congressional action prohibiting it," King said in a statement. "I have trouble believing Obama Administration promises.
"If the Obama Administration is willing to ignore Congress about the purchase of the Thomson prison, how are the American people expected to trust that the Administration will not ignore Congress about the transfer of terrorists into it? I pledge to continue working to keep the Obama Administration from moving dangerous terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. Homeland."