- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2005

A stealthy move by Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, on the Senate floor yesterday may have stolen the contract for Marine One, the president’s helicopter, from Lockheed Martin Corp. and two fellow Democrats, New York Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer.

The Senate, without much debate and after a perfunctory voice vote, passed Mr. Dodd’s amendment that bars companies wishing to build Marine One from doing business with companies from countries that are state sponsors of terrorism.

That could threaten the recently awarded contract for Marine One, which the Navy gave to a U.S.-European partnership of Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest defense contractor, and Agusta Westland.

Connecticut is home to the losing bidder, Sikorsky Aircraft, while Lockheed Martin had planned to build the helicopter at a plant in New York.

Mr. Dodd charged that Agusta Westland is considering marketing to Iran and said that should concern Americans.

“There are few more sensitive and more important national security concerns than the safe transport of our nation’s chief executive,” Mr. Dodd said. “This measure can help protect our national security by ensuring that America’s adversaries don’t gain access to our nation’s critically important technology.”

Mr. Dodd said a better option is to keep the contract with “the all-American-made Sikorsky helicopter.”

The amendment is part of the Senate’s foreign affairs authorization bill and has to pass a number of legislative hurdles to take effect.

Still, it was a legislative coup for Mr. Dodd, though it brought the Senate to a halt yesterday afternoon as both parties’ leaders rushed to the floor to try to sort out the matter.

The contract with Lockheed Martin, which is based in Bethesda, would mean hundreds of jobs for the company’s Oswego plant in New York, and Mr. Schumer was visibly angry as he announced that he would personally block all Senate business until the situation was resolved.

“An amendment just passed without notice to any of us that involves a dispute about a helicopter between New York and Connecticut,” he said. “I didn’t know of that amendment, neither did Senator Clinton, neither did anybody else.”

But a Senate source said Mr. Schumer had been on the floor the entire time Mr. Dodd was speaking about his amendment.

Mr. Schumer later exchanged words with Mr. Dodd, then walked to a corner phone of the chamber to make calls.

Mrs. Clinton later came to the floor, walked by Mr. Dodd’s desk, and angrily wagged her finger at him.

Both New Yorkers then pleaded with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, to help them. Mr. Schumer could be heard telling the leaders Mr. Dodd was trampling the “regular order” procedures of the Senate, which usually require that amendments passed by voice are cleared with every office.

The $6.1 billion contract was awarded in January. It covers 23 helicopters, with the first to be delivered in 2009.

Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky had battled fiercely for the contract to build Marine One, the designation given to helicopters used to transport presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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