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Spin Control

Posts tagged: tanker contracts

Tanker contract fuels Senate campaign

The nation’s nine-year debate on how to replace Air Force tankers became a talking point in two places Tuesday: the floor of the U.S. Senate and the Senate campaign in Washington state.

An amendment to next year’s Defense Authorization bill would have banned Airbus from getting a $35 billion contract to build the first round of replacements for the aging KC-135s, a move that would essentially seal the deal for Boeing. That amendment, co-sponsored by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, crashed and burned along with some other high-profile amendments like an end to the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy when threat of a filibuster blocked the authorization bill.

Back in the airplane giant’s native state, Murray is clashing with Republican campaign rival Dino Rossi over whether a World Trade Organization ruling against Airbus should be considered when the Air Force decides which plane is best. In a joint appearance in Tacoma Monday, Rossi was asked about the WTO rulings should be a factor in awarding the contract, particularly if Airbus got hit harder than Boeing did.

His short answer was “No.”

That prompted the Murray campaign to hit Mach One in record time, saying that Rossi essentially didn’t care if the next generation of tanker was built by the French instead of good old American workers in the Puget Sound. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee and a longtime Murray ally, pronounced himself stunned with the answer and contended Rossi “clearly doesn’t understand the issue.”

“Does Rossi want to make Bastille Day a national holiday, too?”  Sadie Weiner of the state Democrats asked sarcastically.

By late morning, however, the Rossi campaign said he intepreted the question differently than others are. He thought the TNT was asking if about Boeing sanctions, not Airbus sanctions, when saying they shouldn’t be considered.

Just Rossi trying to cover his tracks because he doesn’t understand the issue, the Murray camp responded. Just Murray trying to distract attention from her record, the Rossi campaign countered.

Beyond the political back and forth, there was a question as to whether Rossi would have supported the Defense Authorization amendment to require the Pentagon to take unfair advantages into account.

Jennifer Morris, his campaign spokeswoman, said yes: “The Brownback amendment? He would have supported it.”

(Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, is another cosponsor of the amendment.)

So after about 24 hours of back and forth, Murray and Rossi are essentially in the same position on whether Airbus should have a chance to bid on the new tankers if it got unfair subsidies.

How did all this start? A look at the tape shows Rossi was asked two questions about the sanctions, the first of which was prefaced with a statement about how sboth sides are getting adverse WTO rulings and assumed the Airbus sanctions would be worse, and a follow-up when the questioner apparently felt he hadn’t answered the question. It was to the second question that he answered “No. Not a factor as far as I’m concerned. No.”

Murray quickly responded that she believed the sanctions should be a factor and , was introducing the amendment today to make the Pentagon take them into account. The editorial board then moved on to another topic, so Rossi didn’t follow up to clarify.

You can read the transcript of the questions, the Dicks’ and Rossi press release inside the blog, and decide for yourself who’s right (or at least who’s more right):

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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