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House Approves Defense Bill, Strips F-22 Funds

Updated 2:41 p.m.
By Ben Pershing
The House easily approved a $636 billion defense spending bill Thursday, after voting to strip money for the controversial F-22 fighter but leaving funding in place for several other military programs the Obama administration doesn't want.

After the Senate voted last week 58-40 to strike the F-22 funding from its defense authorization bill, the House followed suit today by removing the money from its Pentagon appropriations measure. The amendment to cut the funding, sponsored by the bill's author, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), passed by a similarly wide margin, 269-165. The vast majority of Democrats voted in favor of killing the program, while most Republicans voted against.

Obama has threatened to veto the defense measure if it included the F-22 money. He also threatened a veto if it includes funding for the VH-71 presidential helicopter and for an alternative engine program for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Money for both of the latter programs remains in the House bill, as does funding for other items the Pentagon doesn't want -- extra C-17 transport planes and F-18 jets, as well as the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, a missile defense program.

The House has now passed its versions of all 12 appropriations bills for 2010, but passage of the Defense spending bill is just one step in a long legislative process. The Senate has not moved its version of the measure through committee yet, and a final version of the bill won't emerge from conference negotiations until this fall at the earliest. Programs subject to an Obama veto threat could be removed during those House-Senate talks.

Separately, the House and Senate have both passed their versions of the defense authorization bill, and have begun initial negotiations on reconciling the two measures.

During Thursday's debate, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), the House's leading crusader against earmarks, took aim against several projects for former clients of PMA, the now-defunct lobbying firm that is the subject of a federal investigation and a House ethics committee probe. The firm had close ties to Murtha, the chairman of the Defense appropriations subcommittee.

Murtha mounted a strongly-worded defense of many of the programs under assault from Flake, arguing that they were important to the national defense and the economic health of his Pennsylvania district.

One of the votes Thursday was on an "en bloc" amendment combining more than 500 separate Flake-sponsored amendments, each of them aimed at a different earmark in the defense bill. The amendment failed by a wide margin, as did a handful of amendments from other members to strike earmarks from the measure.

Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), the leader of a failed effort to cut money for the Kinetic Energy Interceptor program, called the bill "our opportunity to do the right thing. At some point in time we're going to have to start looking at all our budgets, and that includes the defense budget."

But Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), a longtime appropriator, argued that Congress needed to play a role in allocating money, because while the administration and the Pentagon did their best, "They don't have all of the knowledge. They don't have all of the wisdom."

By Ben Pershing  |  July 30, 2009; 2:41 PM ET
Categories:  Branch vs. Branch , House , Purse Strings  
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The guy from Florida is right... they don't have all the info (though they should have quite a bit of it - they should know what they need and why). But if they don't explain it, smart guy. As many weapons and systems as we have, we need a bunch more? Fine, it "saves" jobs, which looks good for you. At some point, you have to ask, though, how much should be spent on this extraneous stuff. Some military stuff needs to be updated, that's fair, and regularly maintained. The waste needs to be cut out, and if the executive branch and the Pentagon are actually saying they want to scale back on new stuff, then that's what should be done.

Posted by: fbutler1 | July 30, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Slight correction to initial post adding the word "post" following "earlier"...

Excellent point by the appropriator, and as should be discernible from this earlier post to the R. Jeffrey Smith story...

Posted by: ASIMOV52 | July 30, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Excellent point by the appropriator from Florida, and as should be discernible from this earlier to the R. Jeffrey Smith story, too many of our esteemed colleagues in media and government have not sought to seriously question the basis of the SECDEF's assertions -- especially regarding Boeing C-17:

"Readers who consider critical thinking as an asset may want to consider this response, in part, to a recent Aviation Week analysis on strategic and tactical airlift requirements, with specific reference to the continued role of C-17:

“And just because the current administration is disingenuously demanding an end to C-17 production at 205 based on “internal Pentagon analyses” (in actuality, the GAO and Congressionally dismissed 2005/2006 Mobility Capabilities Study (MCS)), exactly what aircraft exists on the planet to do what this superlative bird from Boeing (McDonnell-Douglas)routinely accomplishes within a broad swath of airlift missions?

“If permissible within this medium of communication, I strongly suggest that AW [WaPo as well] readers — and for that matter the editorial staff — take a long exhaustive look at the data contained within recent press releases from Global HeavyLift Holdings, relative to C-17 production continuance.

Posted by: ASIMOV52 | July 30, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

There is a lot more leverage you can get from cutting the F-22 (and the rest of the planes) that no one is talking about. Let's face it, cutting the F-22 is an admission by the Congress that we do not need the best fighter plane ever made, and we have wasted the development money spent on it thus far to get only 187 jets of a planned 650. The USAF inventory of planes is on track to be half the size it is now by 2020. The planned fleet of several thousand F-35s will actually be only 500, based on reliable trend data. Recently released cost estimates for the F-35 back this up. It follows that if there are no jets to refuel, the USAF does not need to replenish its airborne tanker assets. So, kill the KC-X tanker program now before it takes off, and save $35+ billion. The USAF has demonstrated that even the secondary cargo transport mission for this jet is not needed by stopping C-17 production. Somebody call Bob Gates. It's a "No Brainer".

Posted by: AmicusCuriae | July 30, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

What makes America safe is its edge over other countries with its stealth F-22 aircraft and its anti-missile defense system.

This idiotic administration has effectively crippled America's future defense capabilities.

Stupidity like gay marriage and evolution are not defensible. It's only normal that America should be weak and be vulnerable in order to be destroyed in a coming future war. Not all of America, but the liberal evolutionist gay-marrying part of America.

Obama, Gates and McCain may turn out to be the 3 stooges in all of America's history.

Posted by: spidermean2 | July 30, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

The worst part is that America is sharing its stealth technology to other countries thru its joint production of F-35.

When in some strange event Europe would wish to cut its military ties with America, it would become SO VULNERABLE.

That's the game this stupid administration is playing.

"Death to America" seems to be its battlecry. STEALTHILY for sure.

Posted by: spidermean2 | July 30, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse

What makes America safe is its edge over other countries with its stealth F-22 aircraft and its anti-missile defense system.

The 3 stooges (Obama, Gates and McCain) made sure these advantages were scrapped.

A future war would also scrap the people who praised this moved.

It's a time tested fact that stupidity is self-destructive. We're now seeing how the idiots slowly but surelyy self-destruct.

Posted by: spidermean2 | July 30, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

The congress only cares about their kickbacks, not me, you, santa clause. Their greed from those defense lobbyist is gonna be our downfall. I VOTE TO CHANGE ALL GOVERNMENT MONIES, FOR ANYTHING, TO BE LABELED TAXPAYER FUNDING, NOT GOVERNMENT,then maybe somebody will sit up and say WHOA. I can'T believe their attitudes, it's ME, ME, ME.

Posted by: kickmeagain | July 31, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

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