Note: The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act is tied to this bill, which President Obama threatened to veto if it contained the F-22 funding.
By Halimah Abdullah, McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Tuesday to strip $1.75 billion in increased spending for the F-22 jet fighter following a protracted fight between the Obama administration, top Pentagon officials and a bipartisan group of lawmakers and a faction of military leaders and members of Congress whose districts benefit from the aircraft's construction.
Support for the amendment, which was approved 58-40, was seen as a test of the Obama administration's ability to shift spending priorities in the massive Pentagon budget. President Barack Obama vowed to veto any defense spending measure that included additional money for the F-22
Arizona Sen. John McCain, in an unusual alliance with the Obama administration, faced off against fellow Republican and Senate Armed Services Committee colleague Saxby Chambliss of Georgia in the fight to remove a provision in the $679.8 billion defense authorization bill that called for spending $1.75 billion to build seven additional F-22 fighter jets.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates also opposed the measure and instead wanted to cap production of the F-22 at 187 and replace the planes, parts of which are manufactured in Georgia, with the F-35, which has parts produced in Texas.
Both planes are built by Lockheed Martin
"The fact that the F-22 program is no longer needed beyond where it stands today; that it is no longer wanted by the most senior civilian and uniformed officials in the Pentagon -- exercising their best professional judgment -- and that it is simply no longer affordable, cannot be disputed," McCain said Tuesday on the Senate floor. "However, in the face of those facts, the full weight of all those interests that have -- for a period of over 20 years -- become invested in the survival of the program, has been brought to bear on the decision-making process -- on this body today. That is the military-industrial-congressional complex at work."
Chambliss criticized Obama's veto threat and said the Pentagon's decision was driven by budgetary pressures, puts the nation at risk from future military threats and will result in huge job losses.