President Barack Obama has apparently said no to selling new F-16 fighters to Taiwan, but Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, isn't going to take that as the final answer.
Cornyn filed a bill Tuesday that would require the Obama administration to allow the sale of 66 F-16 C/D jets to Taiwan as an amendment to a trade bill up for review in the Senate.
The General System of Preferences bill provides favorable trade status to certain products from developing countries. Another amendment to the bill would reauthorize trade adjustment assistance, which helps workers and companies hurt by foreign trade.
"This is a relevant issue because it [the bill] is about trade," said Drew Brandewie, press secretary for Cornyn. Brandewie said the amendment goes into a hopper with numerous others offered by senators. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will decide which amendments get brought to a vote.
Cornyn is optimistic about his measure's chances because "there is broad bipartisan support for this bill in the House and Senate," Brandewie said.
Cornyn and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., introduced the Taiwan Airpower Modernization Act of 2011 on Sept. 12, several days before word began to leak out that the Obama administration had decided against selling new planes to Taiwan. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, both of Connecticut, home state of engine maker Pratt & Whitney, have signed on as co-sponsors, as have Republican Sens. Tom Coburn and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and Jon Kyl of Arizona.
The Obama administration has not formally announced its plans for an arms sale to Taiwan, but the administration is expected to send a report to Congress today. According to news reports, the administration would allow Lockheed Martin to provide upgrades to the country's existing F-16s as well as other arms sales.
Lockheed Martin officials have publicly remained quiet on the subject. "Any questions regarding the potential upgrade or sale of F-16s to Taiwan should be addressed to the governments of the U.S. or Taiwan. Lockheed Martin stands ready to support whatever decisions are made by the U.S. government," the company said in a statement.
About 2,000 people are employed at Lockheed's west Fort Worth aircraft assembly plant building the F-16. The company has orders to keep the assembly line running through 2013 and has said it needs more to keep production going.