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Inside Politics

- - Thursday, May 26, 2011

ILLINOIS

Blagojevich takes stand in his own defense

CHICAGO | An unmuzzled Rod R. Blagojevich launched the campaign of his life Thursday, taking the witness stand at his corruption trial in an attempt to sway a jury with the same charm and chattiness that helped him win two contests for Illinois governor.

Not until five hours into his testimony did Blagojevich or his attorneys directly address 20 federal corruption charges against him, instead discussing his upbringing, his first Little League hit and his college-age insecurity. “I'm Rod Blagojevich, I used to be your governor,” the longtime politician told jurors. “I'm here today to tell you the truth.”

On the first of what could be several days on the stand, he was not asked about the most explosive allegation - that he tried to sell or trade President Obama's old Senate seat for personal gain. But he denied other charges, saying he never tried to leverage a state school grant to squeeze Rahm Emanuel's brother to hold a fundraiser for him. He also denied trying to shake down a racetrack owner.

And he denied an allegation made in testimony the previous day when Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. accused him of withholding a state job for Mr. Jackson's wife over Mr. Jackson's refusal to give him a $25,000 campaign donation. “I don't remember anything remotely like that,” he said.

Indignant one minute, laughing the next, in tears after that, witness Blagojevich clearly was trying to humanize himself for the jury to counteract the blunt, profane, seemingly greedy Blagojevich heard on FBI wiretap recordings played in court by prosecutors over the last several weeks.

CAMPAIGN

Romney sets announcement for presidential bid

DES MOINES | Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney plans to announce next week that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Mr. Romney said Thursday he would enter the race formally during an appearance next Thursday at a New Hampshire farm that is a must-visit for would-be presidential candidates.

Mr. Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination four years ago, has been lining up financial and political support ahead of the anticipated run, and his announcement was expected. He already has formed a presidential exploratory committee and has been raising cash.

By announcing in New Hampshire, Mr. Romney is signaling that he will make the state a key piece of his political strategy. He came in second place to Sen. John McCain there in 2008.

CAMPAIGN

Santorum to begin campaign in coal fields

Former Sen. Rick Santorum is planning to kick off his presidential campaign next month in Western Pennsylvania coal fields, where his grandfather once worked.

The Republican plans to start his White House campaign June 6, Mr. Santorum announced Thursday on his Facebook page. He then will head to Iowa and New Hampshire.

Mr. Santorum already had announced his presidential ambitions and he has been aggressively campaigning in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He also has hired veterans of past presidential runs.

HOUSE

Frank helped partner get Fannie Mae job

Rep. Barney Frank says he helped his then-domestic partner land a job with Fannie Mae in the 1990s while Mr. Frank was serving on the House panel overseeing the mortgage company.

The Massachusetts Democrat said Thursday he had praised Herb Moses' qualifications when a Fannie Mae executive approached him and asked about Mr. Moses. The executive had once worked on Capitol Hill and knew that Mr. Frank and Mr. Moses lived together.

Mr. Frank, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, was responding to a new book that mentioned his role in helping Mr. Moses get the job. Mr. Frank called any questions about a conflict of interest “ridiculous.” Congress at the time was considering legislation to improve oversight of the mortgage agency. A Fannie Mae spokesman declined to comment.

SENATE

Coburn: Ethics report 'inaccurate' on Ensign

Sen. Tom Coburn says an account by the Senate ethics panel of his role in negotiations involving disgraced former Sen. John Ensign is totally inaccurate.

The discussions involved payments to the husband of the woman with whom Mr. Ensign was having an affair.
Mr. Coburn said Thursday that an account by another key witness who said Mr. Coburn took an active role in negotiations between Mr. Ensign and former aide Doug Hampton over relocating Mr. Hampton and a potential payout “is not an accurate reflection of what happened.”

In an interview taped for C-SPAN's “Newsmakers,” Mr. Coburn said he was proud of the role he played in helping break off the affair between Mr. Ensign and Mr. Hampton's wife, Cynthia. He said: “There's nothing unethical in what we did.”

SENATE

HHS asked to warn states off Planned Parenthod bans

A group of 30 Democratic senators is telling Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius she should warn states that if they try to exclude family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood from Medicaid and Title X funding, they with face penalties with the federal government.

The letter, sent Thursday, cites a law passed recently in Indiana, which excludes funding to Planned Parenthood. Other states are considering similar laws.

The senators write that such legislation is “in direct opposition” to congressional intent and contradicts “the spirit and the letter” of existing laws.

HHS did not have a comment on the letter, but the agency is expected to address the issue soon.

SENATE

45 members request approval of Taiwan arms sale

Nearly half the Senate urged President Obama on Thursday to authorize quickly the sale of F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan, a request that has been hanging for five years.

Despite an easing of tensions across the Taiwan Strait in the past three years, Taiwan says it needs the 66 planes to maintain a credible defense and provide leverage in negotiations with Beijing. U.S. agreement to the sale, worth billions of dollars, would anger China's communist-led government.

“Without new fighter aircraft and upgrades to its existing fleet of F-16s, Taiwan will be dangerously exposed to Chinese military threats, aggression and provocation, which pose significant national security implications for the United States,” says a letter, signed by 45 of the 100 members of the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans.

Gary Locke, nominated to become U.S. ambassador to China, told lawmakers Thursday that no decision has been made on the sale, and the request for the F-16 C/Ds still is being evaluated by the Defense and State departments.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-7>ILLINOIS
@Brief.head:Blagojevich takes stand[R]in his own defense<t-5>
@-Text.rag:<x@Dateline><t$>CHICAGO<x@$><t-6h$z$f$> | An unmuzzled Rod R. Blagojevich launched the campaign of his life Thursday, taking the witness stand at his corruption trial in an attempt to sway a jury with the same charm and chattiness that helped him win two contests for Illinois governor.
Not until five hours into his testimony did Blagojevich or his attorneys directly address 20 federal corruption charges against him, instead discussing his upbringing, his first Little League hit and his college-age insecurity. “I'm Rod Blagojevich, I used to be your governor,” the longtime politician told jurors. “I'm here today to tell you the truth.”
On the first of what could be several days on the stand, he was not asked about the most explosive allegation [-] that he tried to sell or trade President Obama's old Senate seat for personal gain. But he denied other charges, saying he never tried to leverage a state school grant to squeeze Rahm Emanuel's brother to hold a fundraiser for him. He also denied trying to shake down a racetrack owner.
And he denied an allegation made in testimony the previous day when Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. accused him of withholding a state job for Mr. Jackson's wife over Mr. Jackson's refusal to give him a $25,000 campaign donation. “I don't remember anything remotely like that,” he said.
Indignant one minute, laughing the next, in tears after that, witness Blagojevich clearly was trying to humanize himself for the jury to counteract the blunt, profane, seemingly greedy Blagojevich heard on FBI wiretap recordings played in court by prosecutors over the last several weeks.

@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-11>CAMPAIGN
@Brief.head:<t-6>Romney sets announcement[R]for presidential bid<t-9>
@-Text.rag:<x@Dateline><t-4>DES MOINES<x@$><t-7h$z$f$> | Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney plans to announce next week that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination.
Mr. Romney said Thursday he would enter the race formally during an appearance next Thursday at a New Hampshire farm that is a must-visit for would-be presidential candidates.
Mr. Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination four years ago, has been lining up financial and political support ahead of the anticipated run, and his announcement was expected. He already has formed a presidential exploratory committee and has been raising cash.
By announcing in New Hampshire, Mr. Romney is signaling that he will make the state a key piece of his political strategy. He came in second place to Sen. John McCain there in 2008.
<t-5>
@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-7>CAMPAIGN
@Brief.head:Santorum to begin[R]campaign in coal fields<t-5>
@-Text.rag:<t-6>Former Sen. Rick Santorum is planning to kick off his presidential campaign next month in Western Pennsylvania coal fields, where his grandfather once worked.
The Republican plans to start his White House campaign June 6, Mr. Santorum announced Thursday on his Facebook page. He then will head to Iowa and New Hampshire.
Mr. Santorum already had announced his presidential ambitions and he has been aggressively campaigning in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He also has hired veterans of past presidential runs.

@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-7>HOUSE
@Brief.head:Frank helped partner[R]get Fannie Mae job<t-5>
@-Text.rag:<t-6>Rep. Barney Frank says he helped his then-domestic partner land a job with Fannie Mae in the 1990s while Mr. Frank was serving on the House panel overseeing the mortgage company.
The Massachusetts Democrat said Thursday he had praised Herb Moses' qualifications when a Fannie Mae executive approached him and asked about Mr. Moses. The executive had once worked on Capitol Hill and knew that Mr. Frank and Mr. Moses lived together.
Mr. Frank, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, was responding to a new book that mentioned his role in helping Mr. Moses get the job. Mr. Frank called any questions about a conflict of interest “ridiculous.” Congress at the time was considering legislation to improve oversight of the mortgage agency. A Fannie Mae spokesman declined to comment.

@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-11>SENATE
@Brief.head:<t-6>Coburn: Ethics report[R]'inaccurate' on Ensign<t-9>
@-Text.rag:<t-5>Sen. Tom Coburn says an account by the Senate ethics panel of his role in negotiations involving disgraced former Sen. John Ensign is totally inaccurate.
The discussions involved payments to the husband of the woman with whom Mr. Ensign was having an affair.
Mr. Coburn said Thursday that an account by another key witness <x@\:ch value\=\”226 128 147\”/><t-5> who said Mr. Coburn took an active role in negotiations between Mr. Ensign and former aide Doug Hampton over relocating Mr. Hampton and a potential payout “is not an accurate reflection of what happened.”
In an interview taped for C-SPAN's “Newsmakers,” Mr. Coburn said he was proud of the role he played in helping break off the affair between Mr. Ensign and Mr. Hampton's wife, Cynthia. He said: “There's nothing unethical in what we did.”
@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-7>SENATE
@Brief.head:HHS asked to warn states[R]off Planned Parenthod bans<t-5>
@-Text.rag:<t-6>A group of 30 Democratic senators is telling Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius she should warn states that if they try to exclude family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood from Medicaid and Title X funding, they with face penalties with the federal government.
The letter, sent Thursday, cites a law passed recently in Indiana, which excludes funding to Planned Parenthood. Other states are considering similar laws.
The senators write that such legislation is “in direct opposition” to congressional intent and contradicts “the spirit and the letter” of existing laws.
HHS did not have a comment on the letter, but the agency is expected to address the issue soon.
<x@\:ch value\=\”226 128 147\”/><t-5>
@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-11>SENATE
@Brief.head:<t-6>45 members request[R]approval of Taiwan arms sale<t-9>
@-Text.rag:<t-6>Nearly half the Senate urged President Obama on Thursday to authorize quickly the sale of F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan, a request that has been hanging for five years.
Despite an easing of tensions across the Taiwan Strait in the past three years, Taiwan says it needs the 66 planes to maintain a credible defense and provide leverage in negotiations with Beijing. U.S. agreement to the sale, worth billions of dollars, would anger China's communist-led government.
“Without new fighter aircraft and upgrades to its existing fleet of F-16s, Taiwan will be dangerously exposed to Chinese military threats, aggression and provocation, which pose significant national security implications for the United States,” says a letter, signed by 45 of the 100 members of the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans.
<t-8>Gary Locke, nominated to become U.S. ambassador to China, told lawmakers Thursday that no decision has been made on the sale, and the request for the F-16 C/Ds still is being evaluated by the Defense and State departments.
@Credit:<t-7>From wire dispatches and staff reports@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-7>ILLINOIS
@Brief.head:Blagojevich takes stand[R]in his own defense<t-5>
@-Text.rag:<x@Dateline><t$>CHICAGO<x@$><t-6h$z$f$> | An unmuzzled Rod R. Blagojevich launched the campaign of his life Thursday, taking the witness stand at his corruption trial in an attempt to sway a jury with the same charm and chattiness that helped him win two contests for Illinois governor.
Not until five hours into his testimony did Blagojevich or his attorneys directly address 20 federal corruption charges against him, instead discussing his upbringing, his first Little League hit and his college-age insecurity. “I'm Rod Blagojevich, I used to be your governor,” the longtime politician told jurors. “I'm here today to tell you the truth.”
On the first of what could be several days on the stand, he was not asked about the most explosive allegation [-] that he tried to sell or trade President Obama's old Senate seat for personal gain. But he denied other charges, saying he never tried to leverage a state school grant to squeeze Rahm Emanuel's brother to hold a fundraiser for him. He also denied trying to shake down a racetrack owner.
And he denied an allegation made in testimony the previous day when Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. accused him of withholding a state job for Mr. Jackson's wife over Mr. Jackson's refusal to give him a $25,000 campaign donation. “I don't remember anything remotely like that,” he said.
Indignant one minute, laughing the next, in tears after that, witness Blagojevich clearly was trying to humanize himself for the jury to counteract the blunt, profane, seemingly greedy Blagojevich heard on FBI wiretap recordings played in court by prosecutors over the last several weeks.

@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-11>CAMPAIGN
@Brief.head:<t-6>Romney sets announcement[R]for presidential bid<t-9>
@-Text.rag:<x@Dateline><t-4>DES MOINES<x@$><t-7h$z$f$> | Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney plans to announce next week that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination.
Mr. Romney said Thursday he would enter the race formally during an appearance next Thursday at a New Hampshire farm that is a must-visit for would-be presidential candidates.
Mr. Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination four years ago, has been lining up financial and political support ahead of the anticipated run, and his announcement was expected. He already has formed a presidential exploratory committee and has been raising cash.
By announcing in New Hampshire, Mr. Romney is signaling that he will make the state a key piece of his political strategy. He came in second place to Sen. John McCain there in 2008.
<t-5>
@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-7>CAMPAIGN
@Brief.head:Santorum to begin[R]campaign in coal fields<t-5>
@-Text.rag:<t-6>Former Sen. Rick Santorum is planning to kick off his presidential campaign next month in Western Pennsylvania coal fields, where his grandfather once worked.
The Republican plans to start his White House campaign June 6, Mr. Santorum announced Thursday on his Facebook page. He then will head to Iowa and New Hampshire.
Mr. Santorum already had announced his presidential ambitions and he has been aggressively campaigning in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He also has hired veterans of past presidential runs.

@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-7>HOUSE
@Brief.head:Frank helped partner[R]get Fannie Mae job<t-5>
@-Text.rag:<t-6>Rep. Barney Frank says he helped his then-domestic partner land a job with Fannie Mae in the 1990s while Mr. Frank was serving on the House panel overseeing the mortgage company.
The Massachusetts Democrat said Thursday he had praised Herb Moses' qualifications when a Fannie Mae executive approached him and asked about Mr. Moses. The executive had once worked on Capitol Hill and knew that Mr. Frank and Mr. Moses lived together.
Mr. Frank, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, was responding to a new book that mentioned his role in helping Mr. Moses get the job. Mr. Frank called any questions about a conflict of interest “ridiculous.” Congress at the time was considering legislation to improve oversight of the mortgage agency. A Fannie Mae spokesman declined to comment.

@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-11>SENATE
@Brief.head:<t-6>Coburn: Ethics report[R]'inaccurate' on Ensign<t-9>
@-Text.rag:<t-5>Sen. Tom Coburn says an account by the Senate ethics panel of his role in negotiations involving disgraced former Sen. John Ensign is totally inaccurate.
The discussions involved payments to the husband of the woman with whom Mr. Ensign was having an affair.
Mr. Coburn said Thursday that an account by another key witness <x@\:ch value\=\”226 128 147\”/><t-5> who said Mr. Coburn took an active role in negotiations between Mr. Ensign and former aide Doug Hampton over relocating Mr. Hampton and a potential payout “is not an accurate reflection of what happened.”
In an interview taped for C-SPAN's “Newsmakers,” Mr. Coburn said he was proud of the role he played in helping break off the affair between Mr. Ensign and Mr. Hampton's wife, Cynthia. He said: “There's nothing unethical in what we did.”
@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-7>SENATE
@Brief.head:HHS asked to warn states[R]off Planned Parenthod bans<t-5>
@-Text.rag:<t-6>A group of 30 Democratic senators is telling Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius she should warn states that if they try to exclude family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood from Medicaid and Title X funding, they with face penalties with the federal government.
The letter, sent Thursday, cites a law passed recently in Indiana, which excludes funding to Planned Parenthood. Other states are considering similar laws.
The senators write that such legislation is “in direct opposition” to congressional intent and contradicts “the spirit and the letter” of existing laws.
HHS did not have a comment on the letter, but the agency is expected to address the issue soon.
<x@\:ch value\=\”226 128 147\”/><t-5>
@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-11>SENATE
@Brief.head:<t-6>45 members request[R]approval of Taiwan arms sale<t-9>
@-Text.rag:<t-6>Nearly half the Senate urged President Obama on Thursday to authorize quickly the sale of F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan, a request that has been hanging for five years.
Despite an easing of tensions across the Taiwan Strait in the past three years, Taiwan says it needs the 66 planes to maintain a credible defense and provide leverage in negotiations with Beijing. U.S. agreement to the sale, worth billions of dollars, would anger China's communist-led government.
“Without new fighter aircraft and upgrades to its existing fleet of F-16s, Taiwan will be dangerously exposed to Chinese military threats, aggression and provocation, which pose significant national security implications for the United States,” says a letter, signed by 45 of the 100 members of the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans.
<t-8>Gary Locke, nominated to become U.S. ambassador to China, told lawmakers Thursday that no decision has been made on the sale, and the request for the F-16 C/Ds still is being evaluated by the Defense and State departments.
@Credit:<t-7>From wire dispatches and staff reports@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-7>ILLINOIS
@Brief.head:Blagojevich takes stand[R]in his own defense<t-5>
@-Text.rag:<x@Dateline><t$>CHICAGO<x@$><t-6h$z$f$> | An unmuzzled Rod R. Blagojevich launched the campaign of his life Thursday, taking the witness stand at his corruption trial in an attempt to sway a jury with the same charm and chattiness that helped him win two contests for Illinois governor.
Not until five hours into his testimony did Blagojevich or his attorneys directly address 20 federal corruption charges against him, instead discussing his upbringing, his first Little League hit and his college-age insecurity. “I'm Rod Blagojevich, I used to be your governor,” the longtime politician told jurors. “I'm here today to tell you the truth.”
On the first of what could be several days on the stand, he was not asked about the most explosive allegation [-] that he tried to sell or trade President Obama's old Senate seat for personal gain. But he denied other charges, saying he never tried to leverage a state school grant to squeeze Rahm Emanuel's brother to hold a fundraiser for him. He also denied trying to shake down a racetrack owner.
And he denied an allegation made in testimony the previous day when Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. accused him of withholding a state job for Mr. Jackson's wife over Mr. Jackson's refusal to give him a $25,000 campaign donation. “I don't remember anything remotely like that,” he said.
Indignant one minute, laughing the next, in tears after that, witness Blagojevich clearly was trying to humanize himself for the jury to counteract the blunt, profane, seemingly greedy Blagojevich heard on FBI wiretap recordings played in court by prosecutors over the last several weeks.

@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-11>CAMPAIGN
@Brief.head:<t-6>Romney sets announcement[R]for presidential bid<t-9>
@-Text.rag:<x@Dateline><t-4>DES MOINES<x@$><t-7h$z$f$> | Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney plans to announce next week that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination.
Mr. Romney said Thursday he would enter the race formally during an appearance next Thursday at a New Hampshire farm that is a must-visit for would-be presidential candidates.
Mr. Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination four years ago, has been lining up financial and political support ahead of the anticipated run, and his announcement was expected. He already has formed a presidential exploratory committee and has been raising cash.
By announcing in New Hampshire, Mr. Romney is signaling that he will make the state a key piece of his political strategy. He came in second place to Sen. John McCain there in 2008.
<t-5>
@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-7>CAMPAIGN
@Brief.head:Santorum to begin[R]campaign in coal fields<t-5>
@-Text.rag:<t-6>Former Sen. Rick Santorum is planning to kick off his presidential campaign next month in Western Pennsylvania coal fields, where his grandfather once worked.
The Republican plans to start his White House campaign June 6, Mr. Santorum announced Thursday on his Facebook page. He then will head to Iowa and New Hampshire.
Mr. Santorum already had announced his presidential ambitions and he has been aggressively campaigning in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He also has hired veterans of past presidential runs.

@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-7>HOUSE
@Brief.head:Frank helped partner[R]get Fannie Mae job<t-5>
@-Text.rag:<t-6>Rep. Barney Frank says he helped his then-domestic partner land a job with Fannie Mae in the 1990s while Mr. Frank was serving on the House panel overseeing the mortgage company.
The Massachusetts Democrat said Thursday he had praised Herb Moses' qualifications when a Fannie Mae executive approached him and asked about Mr. Moses. The executive had once worked on Capitol Hill and knew that Mr. Frank and Mr. Moses lived together.
Mr. Frank, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, was responding to a new book that mentioned his role in helping Mr. Moses get the job. Mr. Frank called any questions about a conflict of interest “ridiculous.” Congress at the time was considering legislation to improve oversight of the mortgage agency. A Fannie Mae spokesman declined to comment.

@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-11>SENATE
@Brief.head:<t-6>Coburn: Ethics report[R]'inaccurate' on Ensign<t-9>
@-Text.rag:<t-5>Sen. Tom Coburn says an account by the Senate ethics panel of his role in negotiations involving disgraced former Sen. John Ensign is totally inaccurate.
The discussions involved payments to the husband of the woman with whom Mr. Ensign was having an affair.
Mr. Coburn said Thursday that an account by another key witness <x@\:ch value\=\”226 128 147\”/><t-5> who said Mr. Coburn took an active role in negotiations between Mr. Ensign and former aide Doug Hampton over relocating Mr. Hampton and a potential payout “is not an accurate reflection of what happened.”
In an interview taped for C-SPAN's “Newsmakers,” Mr. Coburn said he was proud of the role he played in helping break off the affair between Mr. Ensign and Mr. Hampton's wife, Cynthia. He said: “There's nothing unethical in what we did.”
@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-7>SENATE
@Brief.head:HHS asked to warn states[R]off Planned Parenthod bans<t-5>
@-Text.rag:<t-6>A group of 30 Democratic senators is telling Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius she should warn states that if they try to exclude family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood from Medicaid and Title X funding, they with face penalties with the federal government.
The letter, sent Thursday, cites a law passed recently in Indiana, which excludes funding to Planned Parenthood. Other states are considering similar laws.
The senators write that such legislation is “in direct opposition” to congressional intent and contradicts “the spirit and the letter” of existing laws.
HHS did not have a comment on the letter, but the agency is expected to address the issue soon.
<x@\:ch value\=\”226 128 147\”/><t-5>
@Brief.kicker.rule:<t-11>SENATE
@Brief.head:<t-6>45 members request[R]approval of Taiwan arms sale<t-9>
@-Text.rag:<t-6>Nearly half the Senate urged President Obama on Thursday to authorize quickly the sale of F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan, a request that has been hanging for five years.
Despite an easing of tensions across the Taiwan Strait in the past three years, Taiwan says it needs the 66 planes to maintain a credible defense and provide leverage in negotiations with Beijing. U.S. agreement to the sale, worth billions of dollars, would anger China's communist-led government.
“Without new fighter aircraft and upgrades to its existing fleet of F-16s, Taiwan will be dangerously exposed to Chinese military threats, aggression and provocation, which pose significant national security implications for the United States,” says a letter, signed by 45 of the 100 members of the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans.
<t-8>Gary Locke, nominated to become U.S. ambassador to China, told lawmakers Thursday that no decision has been made on the sale, and the request for the F-16 C/Ds still is being evaluated by the Defense and State departments.
@Credit:<t-7>From wire dispatches and staff reports