In the war on Democrats this year, Republicans united behind the pitch for a universal “spending freeze” and “across the board” budget cuts in their promise to reign in the deficit. Falling in line, Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey (GA) assured Americans that he is “committed to finding ways to reduce” government programs that are “bloated” and “riddled with waste.” “With each new appropriations bill Congress considers, I have to ask myself, ‘Is this a good way to spend tax payer dollars,'” he says.
Given his rhetoric, it would be reasonable to assume that Gingrey also opposes unnecessary defense spending. The F-22 stealth fighter jet, for example, is a weapon designed to address threats last faced during the Cold War. It “has not performed a single mission” in Iraq or Afghanistan, and comes with a $120 million price tag per plane. Coupled with the $8 billion it would cost the Pentagon to upgrade the 100 F-22s already in use, the F-22 landed on Defense Secretary Gates’s chopping block last year. After consulting with other Defense officials, Gates concluded, “there is no military requirement” for creating more F-22s.
Yet despite that, and the overwhelming bipartisan agreement that the plane qualifies as taxpayer waste, and in spite of own his commitment to cutting spending, Gingrey now thinks he knows better than the Pentagon and is calling for resuming production of more F-22s. Not only is Gingrey willing to waste taxpayer dollars on an unnecessary and unwanted weapon, he’s willing to fight his own party to do it, because the planes are built in his state:
“The takeover of the U.S. House by Republicans could prompt a revival of the fight for additional funding for the Marietta-built F-22 stealth fighter, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey said Friday. This isn’t just for the sake of home-cooking, but also for the sake of the country,” Gingrey said in a telephone interview.
But Gingrey conceded that concerns over spending and the federal deficit could make the funding battle a difficult one. The planes have a price tag of $120 million each. “We would have to look at it with a very, very sharp pencil,” he said. “It would take some negotiating.”[…]
Gringrey says he has not consulted yet with Chambliss on the issue of reviving the F-22. Right now, Gingrey said, he and the rest of the Georgia delegation were focusing their efforts on getting Republican Austin Scott of Tifton, who beat Democrat Jim Marshall of Macon, a seat on the House Armed Services Committee.
Scott, as the only Georgia Republican on the committee, would become the point man for any discussion of the F-22, Gingrey said.
Gingrey’s soft-spot for this boondoggle may have to do with the fact that he owns tens of thousands of dollars worth of stock in Boeing — Lockheed Martin’s partner in building the F-22. And if he hopes to slip funding for the fighter into this year’s defense authorization bill, he’s making a shrewd move in recruiting Scott for the House Armed Services Committee. Scott represents Georgia’s 8th District, which “has a strong military presence and includes the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, a testing and repair site for the F-22 Raptor.”
But Gingrey is not alone in falling out of step with the GOP’s posturing on spending cuts. Along with the current battle over earmarks, there is an internal “civil war” between “hard-core deficit hawks” like Senators-elect Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) who want to cut military spending, and members like Gingrey and Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) “who view military spending as sacrosanct.” Even GOP leadership seems to be sacrificing the principle for pet projects. Both presumptive-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and former GOP House Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) are also ignoring Gates’s advice to cut the “costly and unnecessary” extra engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the name of “parochial interests.”