In a rare victory for minority Republicans, the House of Representatives Thursday went on record against releasing photographs of prisoner abuse by U.S. military and security forces after the September 11 attacks.
The 267-152 vote came on a motion to instruct House negotiators who meet soon with the Senate counterparts to work out the final details on a nearly $100 billion supplemental spending bill requested by President Barack Obama to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Passage of the military funding bill has proven an unexpected political headache for the administration.
Ninety-five Democrats joined 172 Republicans in voting in favor of keeping the ban, while four Republicans and 148 Democrats voted against the so-called “motion to instruct.”
The vote is not binding, but it greatly complicates the task for House Democratic leaders who have been anxious to keep the photo ban out of the final bill, for fear that many liberal Democrats will vote against it in protest.
The Senate version of the bill includes the ban on releasing the photos, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, have threatened to bring the Senate to a halt if the ban is not included in the final compromise measure worked out between the two chambers.
Mr. Obama also opposes the release of the photos, saying they would provide a propaganda bonanza for al Qaeda and other extremist movements hostile to the United States.
But private rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have pressed for the release of the photos to document what they say was torture approved under the Bush administration. The groups have filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding release of the images.
Democratic leaders in both chambers still insist the photo ban will not be included in the war supplemental bill, which also includes money to support new International Monetary Fund loans and to fund anti-flu efforts.
Largely because of unrelated items added to the bill, many Republicans are expected to oppose the final bill. Too many defections by anti-war Democrats thus could put the bill in jeopardy, especially in the House.