The Senate voted Tuesday to cut off production funding for the F-22 fighter, a come-from-behind win for Defense Secretary Robert Gates who has targeted the costly program as part of his effort to restructure the Pentagon budget.
The 58-40 roll call was more decisive than many had predicted and represented a dramatic shift from only last week when conventional wisdom held that $1.75 billion authorization would easily survive a challenge on the floor.
Unsurprisingly, Loren Thompson -- who makes a living pimping for the defense industry in one-line quotes to the Washington Times -- is unimpressed.
Gates himself was the most public point man for the administration, making calls to senators and delivering a toughly worded speech last week in Chicago. But behind the scenes, Obama and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel also jumped in on the phones, and Vice President Joe Biden called senators last week — including his old friend, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), an ardent F-22 backer.
One of the more colorful moments was a meeting over the weekend between Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley at Cheyenne Frontier Days — “the granddaddy of all rodeos,” the senator boasted.
“Secretary of the Air Force Donley was the grand marshal of the Frontier Days parade, and I asked him how critical the money for the F-22 was,” Enzi told POLITICO. “And he said, ‘It’s not. If that money is left in there, then they will have to cut other defense programs in order to cover it.’”
“It’s a curious way for the president to use his political capital,” said Loren Thompson, the chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, who also consults for the defense industry [as if that's just coincidental to his opinion].