A five-year, $4.1 billion investment in the F/A 18 Super Hornet Navy fighter jet will help keep jobs at Boeing in the long term, Illinois' senior U.S. senator said Tuesday.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, visited Boeing's St. Louis plant Tuesday to highlight the federal government's purchase of 110 F-A 18 Super Hornets from the company. The fighter jet is manufactured at the St. Louis plant.
Durbin, who is vice chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, along with other committee members, were able to include $4.1 billion over five years to keep in production the Super Hornet, as well as the E/A-18 Growler, which is also built in St. Louis.
“It’s going to mean some longevity," Durbin said. "It’s going to mean they’re going to have some good-paying jobs for a long period of time. From the nation’s point of view, it means we’re protecting our nation’s greatest asset: the men and women who come to work here. They’re ready to build the best defense in the world.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Boeing has approximately 14,000 employees in the region, including people from the metro east; Boeing has 738 jobs in Illinois.
Durbin said he hopes Boeing continues to be awarded future federal contracts as well.
“We believe the future Super Hornet as well as these competitions are linked to this new money being invested in our Department of Defense,” Durbin said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed that Boeing’s going to win it, because it means a better future for a company, with corporate headquarters in Chicago and a great production facility just over the river here in St. Louis.”
Tariffs and trade war
Durbin discussed the recent steel and aluminum tariffs enacted by President Donald Trump, and said he’s worried it has started a trade war.
“There’s no question we all demand fair trade agreements. We’re not going to get rich doing one another’s laundry in America. We have to produce the best goods and services that compete on a global basis, and I believe we can," Durbin said. "When we’re treated unfairly by China or any other country, we have a right to not only be upset but to make sure that it changes. I worry, though, that when President Trump determines economic policies …. by tweets. For goodness sake, let’s have thoughtful approaches to this. Let’s make sure at the end of the day we solve the trade problem and don’t start a trade war. We know where the causalities will be in a trade war, almost always with our farmers, and their agricultural exports.”
He said the price of corn hasn’t been strong for a long time, and soybean exports to China being cut off would hurt Illinois and the Midwest. Also, he said, the steel tariffs could lead manufacturers to ask questions about unit costs and competitiveness.
“I’m glad to see the jobs, some jobs are coming back to Granite City,” Durbin said. “What happened to them was unfair, totally unfair, and I supported their efforts to get a better trade arrangement, but we’ve got to make sure we look at the entire picture, when it’s all said and done, that we’re moving forward with good-paying jobs across the aboard.”
On Kyle McCarter
State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, has been nominated by Trump to be the ambassador to Kenya, a position which requires U.S. Senate confirmation.
Durbin said Tuesday he plans to support McCarter and complimented the Republican legislator’s work and involvement in Kenya over the last 30 years.
Durbin said he has met with McCarter, and they had a good conversation.
“I think he’ll be an extraordinary ambassador,” Durbin said. “I look forward to helping him attain that position.”
Illinois' junior U.S. senator, Democrat Tammy Duckworth, has yet to make a decision on McCarter's nomination.
“Senator Duckworth is eager to evaluate Mr. McCarter’s qualifications, suitability to serve and commitment to ethical behavior," said Kiera Ellis, a Duckworth press secretary. "She looks forward to his confirmation hearing testimony."