Congress Ignores WH Veto Challenge Over Fighter Jets

(U.S. Air Force/Kevin J. Gruenwald)
Congress is moving forward with plans to fund the construction of additional Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter jets, even though the Obama administration has said the president would veto such a move.

A Senate panel on Thursday approved $1.75 billion to build seven more F-22s and the House of Representatives voted in favor of a Defense Department funding bill that would allocate more funds for the planes, the New York Times reported. Both chambers are also asking for a report from the administration on possibly exporting the planes to Japan and other allies.

On Wednesday, the Obama administration made it clear it opposes the extra funding. The Office of Management and Budget said the funding for more F-22 fighters runs counter to the "collective judgment" of the military's top leaders. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said production of the jets should stop after 187 have been built. Last week, he called the funding boost a "big problem." He said the jet does not fit well into 21st century warfare.

Both the Senate and the House have also approved the development of an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, another program that the White House wants to get rid of.

While some politicians have argued the jets are necessary for national security, some also say reducing their production would result in more jobs lost, especially in Georgia, where the planes are produced. According to Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee, there are 95,000 jobs directly or indirectly tied to F-22 production, the Associated Press reports.

"It is regrettable that the administration needs to issue a veto threat for funding intended to meet a real national security requirement that has been consistently confirmed by our uniformed military leaders," Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said in a statement.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.), who both voted against the funding, said Congress will ultimately side with the administration because of the high regard for Gates' opinion, according to the Hill.

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