McCain moves to cut $1.75 billion for F-22 jets from budget

Sen. John McCain, in an unusual alliance with the Obama administration, moved Monday to eliminate $1.75 billion recently inserted into the proposed 2010 defense budget for more fighter jets from Lockheed Martin.

The administration has threatened to veto any defense spending bill that includes money for more F-22s. McCain, R-Ariz., supports that position and warned that he may not have enough support to get his amendment passed.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., joined McCain in filing the amendment to cut the extra money for seven more F-22's. The Senate Armed Services Committee last month narrowly approved the additional funding requested by Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss.

Levin, the committee's chairman, and McCain voted against the additional funds. Elsewhere, the House last month voted to include a $369 million down payment for 12 additional fighters to its version of the defense bill.

Levin said he will seek to hold a full Senate vote on the F-22 amendment by noon today toward the goal of completing the defense spending bill this week.

The White House reiterated its threat to veto legislation that includes money to continue production of the radar-evading jets beyond the current request of 187 planes.

"We do not need these planes," President Obama wrote in a letter to McCain and Levin Monday. "To continue to procure additional F-22s would be to waste valuable resources that should be more usefully employed to provide our troops with weapons that they actually do need."

McCain, who last year lost his bid for the White House to Obama, said on the Senate floor Monday that he will strongly recommend the administration veto the defense bill if lawmakers don't act to end F-22 production.

Supporters of the F-22 have said capping production at 187 aircraft is too risky with potential adversaries like Iran, North Korea and China looming.

McCain disputed such arguments. Focusing on timely delivery of the Joint Strike Fighter, also built by Lockheed Martin, is in the best interest of the country and will be a weapon system that can meet future threats, he said.