Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Senate Showdown Over F-22 Fighter Delayed

July 14, 2009 – 1:43 p.m.

A Senate vote on the future of the controversial F-22 fighter jet has been delayed until Wednesday at the earliest, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee said Tuesday.

Chairman Carl Levin , D-Mich., and ranking Republican John McCain , R-Ariz., have offered an amendment to delete a provision in the fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill authorizing $1.75 billion to procure seven more of the fighter jets. The Obama administration wants to terminate the F-22 program and asked for no additional aircraft in its first defense budget request.

President Obama has threatened to veto the defense bill if it endorses continued F-22 production, even though the funds for more planes would have to be appropriated separately.

As maneuvering continues over the amendment, all sides are watching closely. Obama’s veto threat over the F-22 is his first, and the vote represents a potential clash between the White House and Congress over a jobs-producing program that has considerable support on Capitol Hill.

The House version of the defense bill, passed last month, included $369 million to procure parts for 12 F-22s that would be funded fully in fiscal 2011. In January, 44 senators wrote Obama requesting that he back production of more F-22s.

The lobbying battle has kicked into high gear in recent days. Obama wrote senators Monday to repeat his veto threat and spell out again his reasons — both military and fiscal — for ending the F-22 program.

On the other side, many state National Guard leaders have weighed in to promote additional F-22 procurements to replace aging F-15 and F-16 fighters.

What’s more, three top labor organizations — the AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers — have lent their voices to the pro-F-22 caucus in recent days.

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