Election year games in Washington sometimes can have a significant impact on the home front.
Because a lot is at stake in this presidential election year, we might as well get used to being a front-row spectator between now and the Nov. 6 election.
Seems as though the state of Illinois’ proposed sale of the maximum-security Thomson Correctional Center to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is involved in the latest game of political football.
That sale reportedly is being held up by U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia who is chairman of an appropriations subcommittee that funds the Bureau of Prisons.
Illinois Congressman Bobby Schilling, another member of the Republican majority in the U.S. House, has appealed publicly to his colleague to let the sale proceed. Schilling argues the Carroll County prison would mean $19 million in labor income and $61 million in business sales for the area, with a total annual impact of about $200 million a year on the regional economy.
At any other place and any other time, the fiscally conservative Schilling would tell you that government does not create jobs. But this is his district and this is his re-election year, so rules of the political game are subject to change.
Wolf, however, won’t budge.
At first, he said he opposed the sale because he feared the Obama administration would move terrorism suspects from Guantanamo Bay – despite a federal law that prohibits use of federal funds for such a transfer and despite sworn assurances from Attorney General Eric Holder that no such transfer would take place. Wolf said he didn’t trust the administration to obey the law or keep its word.
When the absurdity of his first argument was exposed, Wolf changed his rationale. He said funding the federal government’s purchase of the Thomson prison unfairly “jumps the line” of prisons in other states that are awaiting funding approval to be opened. Besides, he called funding for the Thomson deal an illegal “earmark.” Next, we suspect, some weapons of mass political destruction might be involved.
Skeptics may wonder whether all of this involves ongoing legislative stonewalling to deny accomplishments for a Democratic president who is campaigning for re-election. After all, if House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor wanted this project to move forward, they would persuade Wolf to advance it or replace him with someone who would.
If Schilling wanted to apply pressure on the real decision-makers, he wouldn’t waste his time with a bench warmer such as Wolf; he would put a full-court press on the captains of the House. But maybe that’s part of the game.
Come late October, if Schilling looks as if he might lose to Democratic challenger Cheri Bustos and if Republicans need that seat to help ensure they can keep their majority ... well, maybe funds for that prison can be approved and the incumbent can be a hero just in time for the election.
Maybe we just don’t understand the game.