The public glare was aided by Secretary Gates’s remarkable speech on July 17 to the Chicago Economic club. The speech helped frame the stakes in the F-22 vote. Secretary Gates framed the choices for the Senate sharply:
- “increase and institutionalize funding for programs that directly support those fighting America’s wars and their families”;
- recognize the country faces new security threats as “the Lebanese extremist group Hezbollah currently has more rockets and high-end munitions–many quite sophisticated and accurate– than all but a handful of countries”;
- face ‘requirements creep,’ as exemplified by the President’s helicoptor, which absurdly “enables him to cook dinner while in flight under nuclear attack.” As President Obama said that is defense procurement “run amok.”
Secretary Gates asked if we can’t get the F-22 right, with its absence of utility for our current defense needs and its egregious costs, what can we get right? Gates said, “We stand at a crossroads.” That is not an overstatement.
We know that the bulk of F-22 production takes place in 5 states: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Texas and Washington. The 10 Senators from these states can be expected to support the F-22. They did–consisting of 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans. (Lieberman votes to organize the Senate with the Democrats so he counts as a Democrat). These Senators prove all politics is local. No statesmanship exists in their bones on this matter.
With the Senate at 60 Democrats to 40 Republicans, eliminating the 10 Senators where the F-22 is manufactured leaves the count of 54 Democrats to 36 Republicans. Senators Kennedy (D-Mass) and Mikulski (D-Md) missed the vote because of illness. Voting were 52 Democrats and 36 Republicans.
The non-home state Democrats broke 43-9 to kill the F-22. The non-home state Republicans broke 15 in favor of killing the F-22 and 21 favoring it. Thus, 83% of the Democrats favored killing the F-22, and 42% of the Republicans favored killing the F-22.
Looking at two key Committees, and still not counting home state Senators votes in either Committee, the Armed Services Committee voted as follows: 11 Democrats voted to kill the weapon and 2 supported it. Among Republicans only 2 voted to kill the F-22 and 8 supported it.
The next battle will take place in the Appropriations Committee. Among Democratic Senate appropriators, 12 members voted to kill the weapon and 3 supported it. Among Republicans appropriators, 4 voted to kill the F-22 and 7 supported it. Even with 3 home state Senators on Appropriations, a majority stands opposed to further funding the F-22. Will these Senators stand up to Chairman Inouye (D-Hawaii) who supports the weapon?
Before the House takes its summer recess it will vote on the Defense Appropriations even before the Senate does. Reflecting its parochial outlook, and under the tutelage of its powerful Defense Sub-Committee Chairman Murtha (D-Pa), the House Appropriations Committee funded the F-22, thereby laying down a gauntlet to President Obama, Secretary Gates, Majority Leader Hoyer and Speaker Pelosi. Will the House challenge Murtha, who is a rarely contested legislative baron and is known as one of the pre-eminent “Cardinals” of the House? That is the unanswered question as this post is written.