Barney Frank to F-22: Drop Dead
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has authored an amendment that would remove funding for the extra F-22s that the House Armed Services committee slipped into the defense budget authorization bill last week, his office has just confirmed.
Here's the story so far: at around 2.30 a.m. on Wednesday last week, a bare majority of lawmakers on the committee voted to take $368 million allocated for environmental cleanup of defense sites and re-route it to buy parts for the F-22, thus committing the Pentagon to an extra 12 planes. Frank's amendment would reverse that maneuver.
Frank is one of the few reliable voices on the Hill in favor of dramatically reducing military spending: earlier this year he called for the defense budget to be slashed by 25 percent. (The Obama administration declined to follow his advice.) It's too early to tell whether his amendment can overcome the deep congressional support for the F-22—first his proposal has to make it through the Rules Committee, which gets to decide which amendments to the bill will come up for a vote. That will probably happen late Wednesday. We'll keep you posted; in the meantime, you can check out our ongoing coverage of the defense budget here.
UPDATE: On a conference call on Tuesday afternoon about the amendment, Frank was in fine caustic form:
On the F-22: "This will probably be the only combat the F-22 has ever engaged in or will engage in."
On his fellow lawmakers who are keeping it alive:"I'm struck that so many of my colleagues are worried about the deficit but apparently think the Pentagon is funded with Monopoly money."
Frank was very blunt about the significance of the F-22 to Obama's promises to clean up Pentagon waste: "If we cannot hold the line on this, it's very bad news for holding down excesses in military spending."
UPDATE II: Frank's amendment failed. So the F-22 stays in the House version of the bill.