ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports: Senators voted Friday to double the reward money for Osama bin Laden. President Bush said in 2001 he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive." But six years after the 9/11 attacks, nobody in Osama bin Laden’s inner circle has turned him in.
Senators what to change that. They voted Friday to enable the State Department to double the reward money for the terrorist leader from $25-million to $50-million. They also voted to require the Secretary of Defense to report to congress every 90 days about the hunt for bin Laden.
The Democratic leadership in the Senate is using the bill to criticize the Bush administration’s progress on the so-called war on terror.
"It’s been nearly six long years. Osama bin Laden remains free," said North Dakota Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan, who sponsored the measure.
"Even more important, the threat against our country today is a threat by Osama bin Laden, the leadership of al Qaeda operating from a secure and safe place in Pakistan, we are told, planning attacks against our country and others," said Dorgan on the senate floor before the vote.
"Our intelligence assessment, we are told by newspaper accounts, ‘al Qaeda better positioned to strike the west.’Think of that. Nearly six years later, al Qaeda better positioned to strike the West," he said.
The vote placed Republicans in a tricky political situation. Not wanted to appear to be voting against the capture of bin Laden, most voted to support the measure.
Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig said he would vote for the amendment, but he didn’t think it would do much good.
"Does money make the difference?" Craig asked before the vote on the Senate floor. "Because if money had made the difference, Osama bin Laden would be in his grave. but it hasn’t made the difference. intelligence, human intelligence, relationships, the ongoing development of those kinds of relationships that we build around the world makes the difference."
A similar political maneuver was successfully pulled off by Republicans this week, when several senators, including Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman — who agrees with most Republicans on Iraq – put forth an amendment that condemned Iran for working against coalition forces in Iraq and mandating regular reports to Congress on the involvement of Iran in aiding insurgent forces in Iraq.
Senate Democrats could hardly disagree with that and voted for Lieberman’s amendment.
But on Thursday, GOP senators argued the Democrats were hypocritical for supporting the Iran measure while continuing to call for a draw down of US troops in Iraq.
"If you believe that everything in Senator Lieberman’s amendment is true, how could you engage in a strategy that would at the end of the day allow Iran to be successful? If we withdraw because Iranians are killing American soldiers, they will smell weakness for the ages, and it will not end. This regime in Iran is trying to destabilize the whole Mideast," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.