Thursday, December 17, 2009

Report: White House Threatens Closure of Offutt AFB in Pursuit of Health Care Vote

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2009 -- Over the past few days, some news outlets have reported that Michael Goldfarb, writing at the conservative Weekly Standard Web site, revealed a quote from a Senate source which said the White House is blackmailing Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) with the threat of putting Offutt Air Force Base in his home state on the next Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list if Nelson doesn’t support the government health care bill in the Senate.
While the Democrats appease Senator Lieberman, they still have to worry about other recalcitrant Democrats including Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. Though Lieberman has been out front in the fight against the public option and the Medicare buy-in, Nelson was critical of both. Now that those provisions appear to have been stripped from the bill, Lieberman may get on board, but Nelson's demand that taxpayer money not be used to fund abortion has still not been met. According to a Senate aide, the White House is now threatening to put Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base on the BRAC list if Nelson doesn't fall into line.

Offutt Air Force Base employs some 10,000 military and federal employees in Southeastern Nebraska. As our source put it, this is a "naked effort by Rahm Emanuel and the White House to extort Nelson's vote." They are "threatening to close a base vital to national security for what?" asked the Senate staffer.

Indeed, Offutt is the headquarters for US Strategic Command, the successor to Strategic Air Command, and not by accident. STRATCOM was located in the middle of the country for strategic reasons. Its closure would be a massive blow to the economy of the state of Nebraska, but it would also be another example of this administration playing politics with our national security.
The Dakota Voice newspaper reported this morning that, in the wake of the news, 20 senators, including Senator John Thune (R-SD), are calling for a probe into the allegations.
These 20 senators have sent a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) asking for this to be investigated.

According to Action 3 News out of Omaha where the base is located, Nelson says his vote is not for sale.

And of course, both the White House and Nelson are saying the threat never happened.

This is certainly understandable; the White House doesn’t want people openly realizing the kind of Chicago politics they play, and Nelson doesn’t want people thinking he’s vulnerable. And if he gives in and votes for this assault on the American way of life, he doesn’t want people thinking he did it because of the threat.
Writing at the Weekly Standard, Goldfarb isn't buying the denial and said late yesterday:
They protest a little too much. I do not know this story is “absolutely false.” To the contrary, I’m confident it’s true. Twenty senators are now calling for an investigation, and each is presumably pretty well sourced in the Senate. If the charges are “absolutely false,” maybe the White House will encourage Senate Democrats to call this Republican bluff. I won’t hold my breath.
(Report from newswire sources.)

Weekly Standard report
20 GOP Senators Call for Investigation of Offutt Threat

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