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Senate GOP piling up victories: first Guantanamo Bay, now Reagan's 100th birthday

May 20, 2009 |  9:44 am

President Ronald Reagan

For several weeks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been swarming official Washington with almost daily e-mails protesting the president's plans to close Guantanamo Bay prison, the Cuban detention center for terrorist suspects. The GOP's pitch: would you want these dangerous assassins in a prison in your back yard?

The gambit worked, forcing congressional Democrats to delay, at least for now, funding for one of President Obama's signature campaign-promises-delivered: closing the prison that became a symbol, reviled by world public opinion, of the Bush administration's policy on torture.

This morning, McConnell  hailed the "wide bipartisan agreement" not to close the base "before the administration has a plan" to deal with the remaining 240 detainees. "It would be irresponsible and dangerous for the Senate to appropriate the money to close it," he said. "So I commend Senate Democrats."

Fresh from that victory, the suddenly surging Senate Republicans wrested another victory from the Democrat-heavy Congress, winning a bill creating a commission to commemorate Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday next Feb. 6.

To ready the Capitol for the event, the state of California -- where the 40th president served two terms as governor -- is sending to Washington its statue of Reagan, to be unveiled June 3.

Recalling Reagan's oft-repeated sentiment that "our best days are ahead in this shining city on the hill," McConnell said he was pleased that Congress "has finally agreed to enact legislation to commemorate one of the most important Americans of the 20th century."

Maybe bipartisanship is returning to Washington after all.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo credit: The White House