Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., leads an event in support of the A-10 on Capitol Hill in April. (John T. Bennett/staff)
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WASHINGTON — Those fighting to keep the A-10 aircraft flying say a big blow delivered Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee was far from a knock-out punch.
“This isn’t really throw-your-ass-off-the-roof-of-the-building time,” said one House source fighting to block the Air Force’s plans to retire the attack planes. “There are other possibilities.”
The House panel rejected one possibility during its markup of a $570 billion 2015 Pentagon spending bill, killing an amendment offered by Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., that would have transferred $339.3 million from elsewhere in the service’s budget to keep the A-10s flying in fiscal 2015.
A Kingston aide said on Wednesday that his boss "will continue to fight for the A-10 program throughout the [appropriations] process."
Congressional sources said the Senate Appropriations Committee is leaning toward including funds in its version of the 2015 defense spending bill that would keep the attack planes flying for one more year.
If it includes A-10 funding, a House-Senate appropriations conference committee would decide whether to include those dollars in the compromise version, or in a 2015 government-wide omnibus spending measure, which some sources say could be required as most agency spending bills appear destined to stall in the upper chamber.
The chairman of that panel’s defense subcommittee, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., has said he wants to mark up the bill the first full week of July, after the upper chamber returns from a July 4 recess.
One longer-shot possibility would be an amendment on the House floor when the lower chamber takes up the Pentagon spending bill, perhaps as soon as next week.
“There already was overwhelming support for it in the defense authorization vote,” the House source said. “But an amendment, that’s much harder to do than the other possibilities. We don’t even know if an amendment would even be ruled in order, and accepted.”