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Dem Leadership Moves to Kill Photo Amendment (Bumped)

8:08 PM, Jun 5, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership is moving to strip the Lieberman-Graham amendment blocking the release of detainee photos from the supplemental appropriations bill now in conference. The Lieberman-Graham amendment, formally named the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act, was passed unanimously in the Senate and provided President Obama "with the ability to block the publication of the photos that would endanger the safety of our men and women in uniform." The amendment would allow the Secretary of Defense, in conjunction with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to certify that "that the disclosure of photographs like the ones at issue in the ACLU lawsuit would endanger the lives of our citizens or members of the Armed Forces or civilian employees of the United States government deployed abroad."

One senior staffer on Capitol Hill tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that "the conference on the supplemental may drop the photo amendment to appease the House Democratic Caucus." Indeed, as David Rogers reported in the Politico this morning:

"Obama himself has argued that the pictures should not be released, and the administration gave its tacit blessing to the Senate language when it was inserted - without a roll call vote last month - by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent. At a party whip meeting Thursday, top House Democrats warned the language must come out if Obama is to get his IMF funds. But to the surprise of its allies, the White House even Thursday wasn't willing to commit to this option."

"I'll swallow IMF, but I won't vote to suspend Freedom of Information," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Rules Committee and is close to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who has been Obama's strongest House ally on the IMF issue, put the choice bluntly.

"They can have the IMF. They can't have the IMF and no pictures," Frank told POLITICO in his animated shorthand. "They certainly miscalculated on this pictures thing. I don't know how the hell they thought that would work. The IMF drives away the Republicans. The pictures drive away the liberals you need. You have to choose."

It looks like House Democrats have made their choice, and it's a choice that would endanger the lives of U.S. troops rather than risk a compromise with Republicans on IMF funding. According to this source, Lieberman and Graham will "lead a fight to restore the amendment" in the event that Pelosi and her allies remove it from the final bill, but the Obama administration will need to insert itself into the debate if this matter is to be properly resolved. As Senator Lieberman said on the floor of the Senate last week, "nothing less than the safety of our military servicemen and women is at stake."