Monday, July 13, 2009

Wire: Obama Threatens to Veto His Own Defense Bill Over F-22 Funding

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2009 -- Newswire services this afternoon reported that President Obama sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee vowing to veto any defense bill that funds more Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter jets.

It's not every day a president threatens to veto his own defense spending bill, but that's the position Obama finds himself taking after senators made an 11th hour addition of $1.75 billion to buy seven F-22 fighter jets whose price tag has ballooned to about $350 million apiece.

"...I will veto any bill that supports acquisition of F-22s beyond the 187 already funded by Congress," Obama wrote in the letter sent to Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The fifth generation fighter jet has been overtaken by the newer F-35, critics argue, and Obama wants to keep with the recommendation of former President George W. Bush and cap the purchase at 187 jets, Fox News reported.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), whose state would lose at least 2,000 jobs should the cap be imposed, won narrow support for an amendment to authorize funds for more F-22s when the Armed Services Committee marked up the bill last month.

"While the administration is emphasizing winning current conflicts, its stance regarding the F-22 does not adequately account for other kinds of threats," Chambliss said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also wrote to senators Monday to express their dismay at the 11th hour addition.

"We strongly believe that the time has come to close the F-22 production line. If the Congress sends legislation to the president that requires acquisition of additional F-22 aircraft beyond fiscal year 2009, the secretary of defense will strongly recommend he veto it," the letter said.

Meanwhile, another last-minute potential showdown is brewing that could stall the defense bill.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D-N.Y.), told FOX News she plans to introduce an amendment Tuesday that would halt the enforcement of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" legislation for 18 months.

"We are losing some of the best and the brightest when we need them. We have two wars, we have Afghanistan, we have Iraq, we have missions all across the world right now that need the best and the brightest, and I think we shouldn't be limiting ourselves," Gillibrand said.

The amendment would halt the Defense Department from removing any openly gay members of the military from serving for the next 18 months while the administration and the Pentagon review the policy.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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