Rep. John Murtha's invitation to house Guantanamo Bay detainees in his district has some local officials seeing dollar signs -- even though Murtha's comment was met with disbelief by others.
The Pennsylvania Democrat, chairman of the defense subcommittee for appropriations, is renowned for his ability to steer earmarked dollars to his district.
And after Murtha told FOX News that he'd be willing to take in terrorist suspects, some saw it as a job-creation opportunity. His district's maximum-security prisons are full, according to the state Department of Corrections, so a new prison would likely be needed to house any of the 245 detainees now in Cuba.
"We're looking for some jobs down here and Congressman Murtha has been exceptional with helping us with that," said Brad Geyer, a councilman in Connellsville, Pa., when asked about Guantanamo prisoners. "My constituents ... would probably err on the side of enjoying the possibility of some new jobs."
State Sen. J. Barry Stout, whose district overlaps Murtha's, said a new maximum-security facility would certainly have to be built to accommodate the prisoners. And he said a new prison is a reliable, 'round-the-clock employer.
"It could be constructed and operated in a safe manner, and it would have an economic impact in the region," Stout said. "You never shut a prison down."
Stout voiced no opposition to Murtha's offer, though he said he would want to see the details first.
"I trust Congressman Murtha," he said, adding that a new prison could reasonably be built in 18-24 months.
"I would want to hear more details, but hey, let's face it -- there's money out there and I would say federal dollars," said Blair Zimmerman, mayor of Waynesburg, Pa. "If you build a new facility you've got construction jobs and everything else. ... I'll keep an open mind."
President Obama on Thursday signed an executive order calling for the closure of the detention facility within one year.
A stream of congress members and senators voiced concerns about where the detainees would go. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said he's been "pleading" with Obama's staff not to bring them to Fort Leavenworth in his home state -- something he believes is being considered.
So Murtha may have just been proving a point when he told FOX News that he'd "take 'em" in his district.
"They're no more dangerous in my district than in Guantanamo," Murtha said, adding that he saw "no reason not to put 'em in prisons in the United States and handle them the way they would handle any other prisoners." He said in a statement Thursday that Guantanamo had cast a "dark shadow" on America's moral standing in the world.
But some residents of his 12th Congressional District were appalled by the safety implications of his statement.
"It's just ridiculous and it's a direct insult," said Bill Russell, an Iraq war veteran who ran against Murtha unsuccessfully last year and is running again in 2010. He warned about the dangers of detainees mingling with stateside prisoners.
"You've got the risk of recruitment where they're selling their brand of Jihad," he said.
He said the proposal is also an insult to the passengers of Flight 93, one of four hijacked planes which went down near Murtha's district on Sept. 11, 2001.
The long-serving congressman beat Russell in November even after calling his constituents "racist" and "rednecks" just weeks before Election Day.
Kevin Miller, who lives in Murtha's district, told FOX News that, "He brings the pork home and people seem to like that."
"I guess this is Jack Murtha's economic stimulus package," he quipped.
But he said the idea that Guantanamo prisoners are no more dangerous in the 12th District is "just insane."
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections had no comment on Murtha's remarks.
FOXNews.com's Judson Berger and FOX News' Chad Pergram and Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.