Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Obama Wins Crucial Senate Vote

The F-22 can perform tactical operations at higher altitudes than other fighters. It can cruise at supersonic speeds without using afterburners and has a skin that scatters radar signals.

“The president really needed to win this vote,” Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan who led the fight to cut financing for the plane, said after the vote.

With some of his political capital on the line, President Obama won a crucial victory on Tuesday when the Senate voted to strip out $1.75 billion in financing for seven more F-22 jet fighters from a military authorization bill.

Time to spend some of that capital. Secretary Gates was with the President. Many senators supported the spending program because the military contractor and its suppliers have plants connected with this plane in 44 states.

The president had repeatedly threatened to veto the $679.8 billion bill if it included any money for the planes. The 58-to-40 vote clearly gives the Obama administration more leeway to overhaul military spending. The F-22, the world’s most advanced fighter, has been a flashpoint in a battle over the administration’s push to shift more of the Pentagon’s resources away from conventional warfare projects, like the F-22, to provide more money for fighting insurgencies.

The plane is part of the military strategy for fighting the Soviet Union, not the Taliban.

Senate aides said that some Democrats who otherwise might have voted for more planes sided with the president out of concern that a loss could have hurt him in the fight for health care reform.

Party loyalty is important. I imagine some arms were twisted. Yet many senators voted for the plane because their states have jobs connected with the project, including several Democrats. In a twist, Senator McCain supported the President.

Mr. McCain told reporters after the vote that the result was “definitely attributable” to the strong push by the president and Mr. Gates. Mr. McCain added that the vote “really means there’s a chance of us changing the way we do business in Washington,” particularly in terms of Pentagon contracting. Mr. Levin said that Mr. Gates and the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, made phone calls to influential senators to rally support.

Mr. Gates has said a new fighter, the F-35, is better designed to attack ground targets. The plane will be used by the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Air Force, and the Pentagon plans to buy more than 2,400 of them.

But where will it be manufactured?

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