Capitol Buzz: McCain mad over rocket engine dispute
WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee got hopping mad Wednesday when he learned that a provision ending a ban on using Russian-made rocket engines was slipped into a massive spending bill behind his back.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been seeking to stop the use of Russian rocket engines in the wake of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, its activities in Ukraine and its violations of a U.S.-Russia arms treaty.
The national defense policy bill — backed by McCain’s committee, passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama — restricted the Air Force from using Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines.
McCain accused congressional appropriators of overturning the “will of the Senate.” He said removing the ban will enrich friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin because they play a role in managing the Russian engine maker, Energomash.
“The result will enable a monopolistic corporation to send potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to Vladimir Putin and his corrupt cronies and deepen America’s reliance on these thugs for our military’s access to space,” McCain said.
McCain is known to vocalize his anger on issues, but this time he was furious.
He went after fellow GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., for slipping the measure in the spending bill to help a defense contractor operating in his state. Shelby has said he wanted to make sure United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, will have at least two of the Russian-made rockets to use on space satellites. American-made ones won’t be ready for several years.
McCain accused Shelby, who is on the Senate Appropriations Committee, for a sleight of hand “in the middle of the night in the worst, disgraceful fashion.”
McCain said Shelby never conferred with him on the issue. “Of course not. Of course not. Of course not,” McCain said. “That’s not the way Sen. Shelby does business.”
“I can’t speak for him, nor do I give a damn,” McCain said about Shelby. “Why would I give a damn what he says?”
Shelby has not responded to The Associated Press’ request for comment.