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No Battle Royal At HASC Markup Over F-35A; Dems Fold Fast

Posted by Colin Clark on

Rep. Jackie Speier 2014

Rep. Jackie Speier

UPDATE: GOP Buries Dems On F-35 Vote; Mudslinging Starts early

CAPITOL HILL: One of the highlights of today’s House Armed Services Committee markup of the draft defense policy bill is sure to was expected to be a series of votes on whether to shift $588.5 million to the National Guard from the purchase of an additional six Lockheed Martin F-35As.

The amendment will be offered by Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat.  The administration asked for 44 F-35As. The HASC Airland subcommittee added six F-35As to the draft bill.

But a spirited exchange between  Rep. Mike Turner, chairman of the HASC airland subcommittee,  and Speier failed to ignite backbench passions and the Democrats backed down fairly quickly. Rep. Adam Smith, ranking member of the HASC, signaled the lack of support for Speier’s amendment by asking Turner if the plane was ready for ramped up production instead of pressing the argument that Speier made — namely that adding more F-35As would be counterproductive because the program just wasn’t ready enough to sustain higher proficient rates.

F-35A head on

The amendment’s short and sweet:

“In Section 4101 of Division D, relating to Aircraft Procurement, Air Force, line 1, reduce the amount for F-35A aircraft by $588,500,000 and reduce the quantity by six.

“At the appropriate place in Section 4101 of Division D, create a new line for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account and increase the amount by $588,500,000.”

But close observers of the markup say the Democrats will press hard on the F-35 amendment, with some predicting the committee may come close to a dozen votes on the subject.

The companies involved were pretty sanguine that the GOP-led committee would fend off Speier’s amendment and they were right.. It will be fun to see whether the tethered goat of Guard funding can attract any GOP members.

With the markup already delayed by two hours due to the speech here by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — the first by a Japanese leader to a joint session of Congress — there’s the potential for tempers to flare should the votes occur late in the night.

The fencing began in earnest when Turner mocked Speier for not having attended any of the open or classified hearings his subcommittee held on the plane’s status. In turn, she called his remarks “obnoxious.” They both drew a mild rebuke from Thornberry: “It’s still early in the day. I’d suggest we all focus on the issue and not each other.”

Rep Doug Lamborn Colorado

Rep. Doug Lamborn

So far, the committee has approved the Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee mark. The only items of note: an amendment supporting the CHAMP electro-magnetic pulse weapon by Rep. Richard Nugent, a Florida Republican, was rejected on procedural grounds by HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry. One by Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado creating “a cooperative program with Israel to develop anti-tunneling systems” was approved as part of the en-bloc amendment..

What do you think?