Obama wins spending battle over F-22

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Mr. Obama wants the F-22 production line to ramp down in 2011 with 187 planes built. The plane’s backers - some of them with manufacturing plants in their home districts - say the bare minimum needed to guarantee Americans can control airspace in combat is at least 243, and may be well more than 300.

They fought to keep the production line open by building an additional 12 F-22s in 2011.

“We may find ourselves on the wrong side of history if we do not stand up for the F-22,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah Republican.

The House spending bill will have to be matched up with the Senate version, which has not yet been written. But the Senate voted to block F-22 funding on a different defense bill last week, putting both chambers on record in support of Mr. Obama.

The House vote was 269-165 to strip the money, with 243 Democrats and 26 Republicans voting to stop building new planes and 13 Democrats and 152 Republicans voting to preserve it.

The White House had issued repeated veto threats over the F-22 and in the run-up to the first test vote in the Senate earlier this month Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates declared the issue was a test of whether any major defense program could be cut.

“If we can’t get this right, what on earth can we get right?” Mr. Gates said in a speech in Chicago.

Sensing the danger of the dropping polls, Mr. Obama has taken pains to say that while he’s boosted spending during the economic downturn, in the longer run he’ll work to control the federal budget. The F-22 cut was a key part of his defense cuts he and Mr. Gates proposed earlier this year.

Now the earmark issue looms for Mr. Obama.

Mr. Murtha and other lawmakers defended the projects included in the bill, saying Congress has the power to decide on spending and arguing former earmarks such as the unmanned aerial vehicle have become successful and critical tools the military now relies on.

Congress has the power of the purse and we can’t give it away because it’s in the Constitution,” said Rep. Norm Dicks, Washington Democrat.

But opponents said the programs should be put through the regular bidding process to make sure the contracts are done properly and the companies can actual deliver the products.

“We bleed off money that should be going to our military,” said Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican.

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