Senators John F. Kerry and Scott Brown want the U.S. Senate to restore funding for a second engine for the military's next generation of fighter jets despite a House vote last week clamping off money for the program.
Kerry, a Democrat, and Brown, a Republican, wrote to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye and Vice Chairman Thad Cochran on Friday asking that any budget measure for the rest of this year keep funding in place for the F-35 backup engine, which General Electric is developing with Rolls-Royce.
"Allowing funding under the next continuing resolution to end before the Senate has spoken would be premature and shortsighted," they wrote. Four other Democratic senators also signed the letter; Brown was the only Republican.
The second engine for the F-35 Lightning II, which is also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is one of several military projects that watchdog groups and budget hawks have criticized as being redundant and wasteful. Supporters say it will save taxpayers money in the long run, and would be needed should the primary engine, made by Pratt & Whitney, fails.
President Bush first urged an end to the program, and President Obama and the Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates both say the engine program should be scrapped.
Last week, the House moved to do that. In one of its first votes seeking to cut some $61 billion from the federal budget this year, the members passed an amendment 233 to 198 that cut $450 million in funds that would have paid for the engine through September.
The six senators voiced concern about the House vote, saying the engine is nearing completion and ending it would threaten national security and waste the $3 billion that has already been spent on the program.
The engine has powerful backers in the Senate, including Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, but it also has prominent critics, such as John McCain, an Arizona Republican.
It's difficult to say whether Kerry and Brown's advocacy will matter, in light of the House vote. In a budget measure last year, the Senate did not include the funding but the House did, and the program remained intact in a compromise budget bill.
Many members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have championed the alternate engine program, which would create some 400 jobs at GE Aviation's Lynn, Mass. factory.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.