Levin: No veto anticipated on F-22, engine

One of the Senate leaders on defense issues on Tuesday played down the Obama administration’s threat to veto a major Pentagon bill over additional Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter jets and a second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.
 
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that he did not foresee a veto over the authorized funds for seven more F-22s and for a second Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) engine produced by General Electric and Rolls Royce.
 
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The Pentagon did not request any funds for either program for its 2010 budget.
 
“I do not foresee a veto on those two issues,” Levin told reporters on Tuesday. In a recent statement of administration policy, the Office of Management and Budget singled out those two programs as issues prompting a veto recommendation to the president.
 
Even though there is a recommendation for a veto, Levin added, “It does not mean it will be.”
 
Levin said President Obama will likely receive a 2010 defense authorization bill with which he will agree 98 percent. Obama would have to find issues of “fundamental principle” to veto the defense bill, Levin said, casting doubt that the F-22 and the JSF engine would be such issues.
 
The F-22 and the engine “are matters of great concern” and they are only two of about 20 big issues, Levin said.  There are another “16 or 18 issues that we agree with the president,” he added.
 
Levin and committee ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) did not support authorizing more funds for seven more F-22s in 2010. But Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), in whose state Lockheed builds the planes, won narrow approval (13-11) for an amendment he offered during the committee’s closed mark up of the 2010 defense authorization bill.
 
Levin and McCain vowed to fight the amendment when the bill comes to the floor. But Levin said Tuesday that it could come down to a very close vote.
 
Levin said that the defense authorization bill could come up on the Senate floor as early as this week.
 
Levin supports funding for a second JSF engine. McCain does not.