Obama, Gates win on F-22 fighter jet vote

The Senate on Tuesday gave President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates a victory in the bitter fight over Lockheed Martin’s F-22 fighter jets.

The Senate voted 58-40 to strike $1.75 billion from the 2010 defense authorization bill that would have funded seven more F-22s than what the Obama administration wanted. The administration wants to cap the F-22 fleet at 187 planes.

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Sens. Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinHow House Republicans scrambled the Russia probe Congress dangerously wields its oversight power in Russia probe The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate MORE (D-Mich.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPutting the 'I' in president To woo black voters in Georgia, Dems need to change their course of action Senate panel again looks to force Trump’s hand on cyber warfare strategy MORE (R-Ariz.), the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sponsored the amendment. They both are opposed to funding more F-22s, but Sen. Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE (R-Ga.) had won narrow approval during the committee's markup of the bill for his provision to add $1.75 billion for seven more F-22s during the committee’s markup of the bill. Lockheed builds the planes in his state.

Shortly after the vote, both Levin and McCain underscored the importance of the Senate giving Obama and Gates a victory on striking the F-22 funds.

The Senate made a “significant decision” on Tuesday after “a very tough battle,” Levin said. “The president needed to win this vote,” not only because he was personally opposed to more F-22s, but also in terms of his overall reform agenda, Levin added.

The fight to stop the production of the F-22 had become intensely personal for both Obama and Gates. Obama personally vowed to veto any defense bill that contained additional funds for the F-22.

Gates in recent days hit back at Congress for not supporting his plan to rein in the costs at the Pentagon — with the F-22 being one of the symbols of Gates’s plan to overhaul the agency’s weapons-buying practices.

Gates and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel made personal calls to lawmakers in recent days to sway them to support the administration’s position.

Minutes after the Senate vote, the Pentagon issued a statement praising it.

“Secretary Gates appreciates the careful consideration senators have given to this matter of national security,” Geoff Morrell, Gates's spokesman, said in a statement. "He understands that for many members this was a very difficult vote, but he believes that the Pentagon cannot continue with business as usual when it comes to the F-22 or any other program in excess to our needs.”

McCain told reporters that Tuesday’s vote also symbolizes a change “in the ways we do business in Washington.” He admitted that the vote had been in doubt as late as Tuesday morning and called it “one of the most significant votes” for national security.

“I’d like to give credit to President Obama for standing firm,” he said. 

One key vote in support of more F-22s was missing on Tuesday: that of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is still out with health issues. Kennedy was able to vote by proxy in favor of more F-22s during the committee’s markup last month.

But Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who has also been struggling with health issues, showed up to vote no. Byrd, like Kennedy, voted through a proxy last month to keep producing the F-22. He kept the same position as he came to vote early. He was in a wheelchair.

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Sen. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryJohn Kerry to NYU Abu Dhabi: We can't address world problems by 'going it alone' Juan Williams: Trump's dangerous lies on Iran Pompeo: US tried, failed to achieve side deal with European allies MORE (D-Mass.) made a major turnaround by voting to strike the fighters after saying he would support buying more F-22s. Overall, 42 Democrats, and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersFreedom Caucus chairman: Who was FBI informant reporting to? Trump: ‘Clapper has now admitted there was spying on my campaign’ Overnight Defense: Trump decision on Korea summit coming 'next week' | China disinvited from major naval exercise | Senate sends VA reform bill to Trump MORE (I-Vt.), voted in favor of the amendment. Fifteen Republicans also helped with Obama’s win. Most of Obama’s allies in the Democratic leadership voted to strike the F-22 funds: Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell not yet ready to change rules for Trump nominees The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Trump to press GOP on changing Senate rules MORE (Nev.), Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer'Right to try' is a win for patient rights and President Trump Overnight Finance: White House planning new tax cut proposal this summer | Schumer wants Congress to block reported ZTE deal | Tech scrambles to comply with new data rules OPEC and Russia may raise oil output under pressure from Trump MORE (N.Y.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump has exposed Democratic hypocrisy on prison reform House easily passes prison reform bill backed by Trump This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure MORE (Ill.).

But California’s two senators, Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response MORE (D) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFormer US attorneys urge support for Trump nominee The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Republicans see some daylight in midterm polling Senate panel clears bill to bolster probes of foreign investment deals MORE (D), voted against the amendment, along with 12 other Democrats and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump to sign 'right to try' drug bill next week Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump official won't OK lifetime limits on Medicaid Dems warn against changes to federal family planning program MORE (D-Wash.) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellOPEC and Russia may raise oil output under pressure from Trump Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers Twitter CEO meets with lawmakers to talk net neutrality, privacy MORE (D-Wash.) also voted against the amendment. Boeing in Washington state is a major subcontractor for the F-22. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) voted against the amendment; Connecticut is the home of Pratt & Whitney, the engine producer for the F-22. Hawaii’s two Democratic senators, Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, both voted against the amendment.

The Obama administration’s fight is far from over. Defense appropriators in the House decided to fund $369 million for advance purchase of parts to build 12 more F-22s after 2010. The full House Appropriations Committee is slated to mark up the 2010 defense-spending bill on Wednesday.

The Senate defense authorizers will also have to head to conference negotiations with their House counterparts over the 2010 defense authorization bill. With the Senate not authorizing any funds for the F-22, it could be easier for conferees to strike the money the House authorizers approved. Levin said he hoped the House would be influenced by Obama’s veto threat and agree to a 2010 defense authorization bill without F-22 funds.

Senate defense appropriators have not scheduled their markup of the 2010 defense appropriations bill, but top appropriator Inouye’s "no" vote could be a strong indication. Levin, however, said that he hoped the overwhelming vote could dissuade the defense appropriators from staging another fight with the administration. Both Levin and McCain vowed to fight any F-22 funding when the appropriations bill gets to the Senate floor.

This story was updated at 2 p.m.