Yesterday, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), along with 19 other Senate Republicans, sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee requesting a hearing into the dubious rumor being spread by the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb that the White House threatened to close Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base if Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) didn’t vote for health care reform. The letter said the senators were concerned because “various media reports” suggested that the base was being threatened “for political purposes“:
It has been reported that the Obama Administration threatened the closure of a U.S. military installation for political purposes, thereby bringing into question the integrity of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. The BRAC process was established to remove political influence so that the decision to close or not to close a military installation could be based upon military utility.
Specifically, various media reports have stated that the Obama Administration would put Offutt AFB in southeastern Nebraska on a future BRAC list because of a vote on healthcare reform. While we recognize the importance of Offutt AFB as the headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command and the approximately 10,000 individuals that work there, we feel that this installation should remain open or be closed on its own merits.
Both the White House and Nelson’s office have denied the rumor. Nelson himself rejected the rumors as “yellow journalism at its worst.” Now, Johanns is saying that though he believes Nelson when he says he wasn’t threatened, there should still be hearings on the rumor:
Even Johanns himself said he doesn’t believe the rumors.
“When Senator Nelson says it didn’t happen, I trust Senator Nelson. I have no reason not to trust him,” Johanns said. [...]
But Johanns said the White House needs to work directly with senators.
“The White House can work with us and say ‘Look, folks, this did not happen. We’re happy to appear before whatever committee,’” Johanns said. “I think that really does put this to rest.”
Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), however, doesn’t trust Nelson’s dismissal of the rumor. “A threat like this would usually sound absurd, except that there has been a culture of strong-arm, Chicago-style politics,” said Terry. That’s the same logic Glenn Beck has used to accuse the White House of being close to “treason.” (HT: Eric Boehlert)