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Senate heads toward vote on F-22 jets

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07/21/2009 05:18 AM
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Senate heads toward vote on F-22 jets
[link to news.yahoo.com]
WASHINGTON The argument over whether spending $1.75 billion on seven additional F-22 jets makes good economic sense is coming to a head between Congress and the Obama administration.

Lawmakers from states that would benefit from manufacturing the jets want the money pumped into the aerospace and defense industries. Defense Secretary Robert Gates counters that the money would be better spent on assuring that the military has the tools it needs to fight the unconventional wars taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An amendment to strip the F-22 money from a $680 billion defense spending policy bill is scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Tuesday. President Barack Obama has threatened what would be the first veto of his presidency if the F-22 money remains in the bill presented for his signature.

"What I have not heard is substantive reason for adding more aircraft in terms of our strategic needs," Gates said Monday while reiterating his opposition to the purchase.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and the top Republican on the panel, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, sponsored the amendment to take out the F-22 money. But there's strong resistance, particularly from senators representing states where the plane and its parts are made.

According to Lockheed Martin Corp., the main contractor, 25,000 people are directly employed in building the plane, and another 70,000 have indirect links, particularly in Georgia, Texas and California. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., a supporter of the program, said there are 1,000 suppliers in 44 states.