As we reported Tuesday afternoon, the full Senate voted to accept the Levin-McCain amendment to cut $1.75 billion Senate defense authorizers had added to the 2010 defense policy bill to keep F-22 production running beyond the 187 Raptors approved by the Obama Administration. The vote was 58 to 40 in favor of the amendment. That, however, is not the end of the line for those who believe 187 F-22s is not sufficient to meet national security requirements. Last month, the full House approved its version of the defense policy bill, complete with funding for additional F-22s. The House and Senate now will have to work out their differences in conference. And, House defense appropriators voted to add 12 F-22s to their version of the 2010 defense spending bill. Senate defense appropriators have yet to complete their markup, but Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who heads both the panel and full committee, has been in favor of keeping the Raptor production line going, if only to provide an opportunity to shift legislation that bans overseas sales. An interesting side note (reported by Roll Call) is that 91-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who has been ill, returned to the Senate in time for Tuesday’s vote, casting his in favor of more F-22s, obviously not swayed by Administration arguments or the Obama veto threat.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.