House GOP Bucks Boehner, Kills Funding for Extra F-35 Engine

In this Feb. 11, 2011 photo released by the U.S. Navy, a variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, conducts a test flight over the Chesapeake Bay. Lockheed Martin,AP Photo/U.S. Navy

F-35C Joint Strike Fighter
In this Feb. 11, 2011 photo released by the U.S. Navy, a variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, conducts a test flight over the Chesapeake Bay.
Lockheed Martin,AP Photo/U.S. Navy

Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

Today's surprising House vote to kill the extra engine for the supersonic F-35 is another sign that it's not exactly business as usual in Washington. For the second time in a week, Republicans bucked their new House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

"I think it's our obligation that we're not going to go along with leadership on everything they put forth," Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) said in advance of the vote.

First, fiscal conservatives forced Boehner to make much deeper cuts in their proposed budget for the rest of the year. Today, on the jet engine, which Boehner supports, they sided instead with Tea-Party-backed Tom Rooney (R-Fla.).

"This isn't about parochial interests," Rooney says. "For us standing here, this is about what we can afford and what we cannot affore anymore."

The spare engine for the F-35 has become a posterchild for government waste. The military doesn't want it; Presidents Obama and Bush have said it's not necessary. But Congress shoved it back into the budget every year starting in 2007. Made by General Electric, it has cost taxpayers $3 billion so far. Getting rid of it would save $450 million this year alone.

Supporters of the alternate engine, including Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), say having two engines from competing companies would theoretically save money down the road.

"By funding competing engines for the Joint Strike Fighter, we can save $21 billion, let me repeat that, $21 billion savings in taxpayer money over time," Chabot said on the House floor.

As it happens, Chabot and Boehner's home state of Ohio is where GE aviation -- builder of the second engine -- is headquartered. GE interests gave $16,000 to Boehner's last campaign and spent $39 million lobbying Congress.

Speaker Boehner may have lost the battle over the engine, but he fulfilled his promise to let the House vote on it, even knowing how it might turn out. Yesterday, before the vote, Boehner told reporters "...let's have a policy debate out in the open on the House floor and let the House work its will."

The engine isn't quite dead yet. Next, the Senate will vote on whether it stays or goes.


Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News Investigative Correspondent based in Washington. You can see more of her posts and videos on CBSNews.com here.
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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.

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