This vote was on an amendment by Carl Levin, D-Mich., that would erase from the bill $1.75 billion that is intended to purchase seven more F-22 aircraft. It would reallocate those funds to the Army, Navy, Air Force and other Defense Department programs. The amendment was offered to the bill that authorizes Defense Department programs in fiscal 2010.
President Obama has said he wants the 30-year-old F-22 strike fighter program defunded; supporters say they are Cold War relics that are too inefficient and expensive to warrant building any more. But the program has supporters in Congress, considering that it employs tens of thousands of people across almost every state.
“Terminating production, such as closing a base, can involve some economic loss for communities involved. I know that very personally. But we must do so from time to time and make these difficult decisions based on what is best for the Nation and what is best for the men and women of the Armed Forces,” Levin said. “As President Obama said the other day, in strong support of ending the F-22 production: ‘To continue to procure additional F-22s would be to waste valuable resources that should be more usefully employed to provide our troops with the weapons that they actually do need.’”
Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said the job losses are just one reason why Congress should retain the program.
“From both a manufacturing perspective and job loss, at a time when unemployment rates are skyrocketing, this body is about to lay off anywhere from 25,000 to 90,000 people—at a time when unemployment rates are going up, because we decided that $1.75 billion is too expensive at this juncture, even though we have offset it, and we have put that many jobs at risk, not because the industry is failing or because it is a bad aircraft but because the Secretary of Defense and the administration have decided this program isn’t worthy of our support,” Dodd said. “ I would not be arguing this case for the F-22 if it were strictly a parochial matter. We don’t have a right to ask 99 other people exclusively because of something happening in our own States. The truth is, halting this production will have consequences for our industry’s ability to continue to build aircraft for our military. The expertise of these people cannot be duplicated overnight.
The amendment was adopted by a vote of 58-40. Of Democrats present, 42 voted for the amendment (including the most progressive members) and 14 voted against it. Of Republicans present, 15 voted for the amendment and 25 voted against it. The end result is that the measure went forward without funding $1.75 billion to purchase more F-22 aircraft.