Video: Torture photos too inflammatory?

updated 6/12/2009 11:01:18 AM ET 2009-06-12T15:01:18

After a flare-up over controversial detainee abuse photos, negotiators from the two chambers of Congress sealed agreement on a crucial war-funding bill when President Barack Obama personally guaranteed the photos would never be released.

To reassure Democratic moderates who had balked at House of Representatives demands that Congress not interfere in a lawsuit to force the release of photos of U.S. troops abusing detainees, Obama promised to use every available means to block their release. His powers include issuing an order to classify the photos, thus blocking their release under the Freedom of Information Act, a federal law under which people may request access to government files.

The promise came after Democratic negotiators abruptly adjourned a public House-Senate negotiating session and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel rushed to Congress to resolve an impasse between Senate Democratic moderates and House liberals over the photos issue.

A federal appeals court in New York withdrew its order that the government release the photographs to give the Obama administration time to take the dispute to the Supreme Court. The move came as a blow to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is trying to force the photos' release.

The compromise $106 billion war-funding bill faces House and Senate votes next week and, if passed, would then be sent to Obama to be signed into law.

Competing House and Senate versions of the war-funding bill passed by wide margins in both chambers last month, but several issues slowed House-Senate negotiations on a compromise. House Republicans now oppose the bill over a $5 billion Obama request to secure a $108 billion U.S. line of credit to the International Monetary Fund to help poor countries deal with the world recession.

Compromise on Guantanamo Bay detainees issue
The House-Senate negotiating session also sealed a compromise on dealing with Guantanamo Bay detainees. Barack Obama would be allowed for the next four months to order the detainees into the United States to face trial.

Video: Gitmo scare tactics Through Sept. 30, detainees from the U.S. detention center in Cuba would be allowed to be transferred to the United States only to face trial, delaying the question of whether Guantanamo detainees tried and convicted in military courts in the United States would serve their prison sentences in the U.S. or other nations.

The compromise buys the administration time as it struggles to come up with a permanent solution to the question of what to do with the Guantanamo detainees that would allow Obama to fulfill his promise to close the detention facility by Jan. 22.

The Guantanamo tangle was but one of several side issues Democrats have struggled with over the past two weeks as they have tried to reconcile Senate and House bills funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The tangle over detainee abuse photos came to a head because House liberals found new leverage since their votes were crucial to passage once House Republicans abandoned the measure over the IMF funds.

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Logistics of the bill
The measure also provides $10.4 billion in foreign aid, including $700 million to help Pakistani security forces fight insurgents and $700 million in international food aid, more than double Obama's request.

Lawmakers from automobile manufacturing states won $1 billion for a new "cash for clunkers" program that aims to boost new auto sales by allowing consumers to turn in gas-guzzling cars and trucks for vouchers toward the purchase of more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The bill started out two months ago as an $83 billion request from Obama, then morphed into a $106 billion measure brimming with money to fight the flu, buy military cargo planes and help poor nations weather the global economic crisis.

The numerous controversies obscured widespread support for the core of the bill: $79.9 billion for the Pentagon, most of which is for carrying out military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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