Update, 10:30 AM PST: We have now confirmed that the House leadership has dropped the Inslee Amendment from the Defense Reauthorization Act that will be sent to the Senate.
We also received confirmation this morning from Inslee’s office that the letter below the jump was written in advance of House action because it had been learned Section 848 might be removed from the House version of the Act.
It appears the so-called Inslee Amendment in the House Defense Reauthorization Act demanding the US Air Force take into account illegal subsidies provided Airbus and Boeing in the KC-X competition may be in jeopardy.
The Seattle Post Intelligencer first reported that Washington State Congressman Rick Larsen was circulating a letter to senior House members calling for the Inslee Amendment (official known as Section 848 of the Reauthorization bill) to be retained in the House version as it goes over to the US Senate for consideration.
But a close reading of the letter raises questions whether the Amendment is or isn’t currently in the Act. The House is in the process of revising the Act before sending it to the Senate for approval. Time is short for the Senate to act before the Christmas recess, and a bill that is not controversial is needed to speed things along.
The House version has a reported 300 add-on provisions that could cause debate in the Senate, including Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Inslee Amendment and only the politicians in DC know what else.
The Don’t Ask provision was separated from the Act for a stand-alone vote yesterday in the House, where it passed. The Senate previously voted this down but another try is going to be made.
The communication from Larsen–co-signed by Jay Inslee, also from Washington State, and lame-duck Todd Tiahrt from Kansas, where finishing work for the tanker will be done if Boeing wins the contract, suggests the Inslee Amendment may have been removed from the House bill to clean it up before sending it over to the Senate. The Inslee Amendment has not been introduced in the Senate and currently is not part of the Senate version of the Reauthorization.
For those unfamiliar with the ways of Congress, the House and Senate pass their own versions of a bill and any differences are reconciled in a conference committee–when there is time. With the holiday recess looming, there is no time for a conference committee, and since the House acted first, a version that is acceptable to Senators is needed to approve the Pentagon’s spending before Congress goes home.
One scenario being discussed is a “consent” vote in the Senate, in which a unanimous vote is required–and thus all the add-ons in the House bill that may generate objections must be removed. The letter to the House members and leaders infer that the Inslee Amendment has been or may be removed from the House bill, and that this language should be “retained” and “included” in the House bill.
Here is the communication from Inslee and Larsen to House members:
We urge you to join with us to press for a level playing field for the Air Force tanker competition.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives voted 410-8 to require the Department of Defense to take into account the illegal subsidies that have distorted this competition from day one. This amendment earned overwhelming, bipartisan support from members of Congress around the country.
We believe that any final defense bill considered in the last days of this Congress should contain this important language to ensure a fair, open, and transparent tanker competition. Please join us in sending the letter below to Chairman Skelton and Ranking Member McKeon of the House Armed Services Committee, expressing support for retaining section 848 of the house-passed National Defense Authorization Act to require the Department of Defense to take into account the impact of illegal subsidies on the tanker competition. To sign, please contact … Rick Larsen’s office … or … Jay Inslee’s office….
Rick Larsen, Jay Inslee, Todd Tiahrt
Dear Chairman Skelton and Ranking Member McKeon: [Editor’s note: these are House members.]
As you complete work on the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, we write to express our support for language to ensure a fair competition for the Air Force tanker contract. We urge you to include section 848 of H.R. 5136, which requires the Department of Defense to take into account the impact of illegal subsidies on the KC-X tanker competition. (Bold emphasis added-editor.)
Specifically, section 848 requires the Department of Defense, when awarding a contract for the KC-X aerial refueling program, to consider any unfair competitive advantage that an offeror may possess. In this section, the term ‘unfair competitive advantage,’ with respect to an offer for a contract, is defined as a situation in which the cost of development, production, or manufacturing is not fully borne by the offeror for such contract.
This provision has strong bipartisan support; section 848 passed on the floor of the House as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 410-8. We strongly urge you to retain section 848 in any final version of the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act. (Bold emphasis added.)
An identical letter was released yesterday by Senators to the Senate leadership, and this action at least makes sense in the scheme of things because the Senate hasn’t taken any action on this at all. But the House letter to the House leadership is odd.