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Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates speaks with members of the press following a tour of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, Aug. 31, 2009. (DoD photo by Cherie Cullen/Released)

President Barack Obama won a showdown vote Wednesday in the GOP-controlled House to kill a costly alternative engine for the Pentagon’s next-generation fighter jet.

The win by Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates was a switch from where the House stood last year under Democratic control. It reflected a sustained administration push to win over the votes of scores of Republican freshmen elected last fall on campaign promises to cut the budget.

Many taxpayer watchdog groups also weighed in against the engine program, slated to cost $3 billion over the next few years and $450 million this year alone.

The 233-198 tally was a loss for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, whose state reaps about 1,000 jobs from the engine program, built by the General Electric Co. and Rolls-Royce.

It was a big victory for lawmakers from Democrat-dominated Connecticut, where the main F-35 fighter engine is built by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp. Former President George W. Bush had also tried to kill the second engine.

The showdown vote came just hours after Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen testified against the alternative engine before the Armed Services Committee, which has repeatedly backed it.
“I’ve been doing money a long time, I can’t make sense out of a second engine,” Mullen said.

Source: Andrew Taylor for The Associated Press.

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