Sen. John McCain has launched a scathing bipartisan attack on fellow Sens. Richard Shelby and Dick Durbin — accusing them of "dark-of-the-night shenanigans" that force American taxpayers to subsidize Russian President Vladimir Putin and his cronies.
Shelby, an Alabama Republican, and Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, used "a disgraceful ploy" that expands U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engines and lines the pockets of Putin and his pals, McCain rages in an opinion piece published Monday in The Wall Street Journal.
"As the 2016 presidential campaign unfolds, the American people's visceral anger at Washington and the leadership of both parties has been displayed by the broad appeal of 'outsider' candidates," McCain writes.
"Conservatives frustrated with the failure of too many Republicans to get serious about wasteful government spending are not the only ones who should be angry at the latest example on Capitol Hill.
"The pork-barrel impulse is so strong that some lawmakers are now trying to have American taxpayers subsidize Russia's Vladimir Putin and his cronies."
McCain explains in response to Putin's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea two years ago, the U.S. enacted tough sanctions against the Russian leaders friends and "their corrupt business empire," restricting the use of Russian-made rocket engines for U.S. national-security space launches.
He says Boeing and Lockheed Martin's United Launch Alliance (ULA), which receives subsidies of $1 billion a year has launched U.S. national-security satellites for 20 years using rocket engines manufactured by a Russian company owned or controlled by Putin's friends.
After the Crimea invasion, lawmakers wanted to switch to U.S.-made engines, but knowing the transition couldn't happen instantly, they allowed nine more Russian engines to be purchased by way of a defense authorization bill.
"Apparently that wasn't good enough," according to McCain who says Congressional allies of ULA, including Shelby and Durbin "sneaked a provision — behind closed doors and with no debate — into the bill effectively allowing ULA to buy unlimited numbers of Russian rocket engines.
"So we will be funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to Moscow while Russia occupies Crimea and destabilizes Ukraine; menaces the Baltic States and some of America's other NATO allies in Europe; violates the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; sends weapons to Iran; and bombs U.S.-backed forces in Syria to prop up the murderous regime of Bashar Assad," McCain writes.
"All this for the benefit of ULA's rocket plant in Alabama and one if its parent companies, Boeing, based in Illinois.
"Such dark-of-the-night shenanigans have too often been typical in Washington. But in all my years in elected office I have rarely seen a more cynical scheme to undermine the will of Congress and the American people."
McCain, chair of Senate Armed Services Committee, says he is hoping to stop it.
"I have introduced legislation with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to repeal this disgraceful provision of the omnibus spending bill," McCain writes in the Journal.
"It is morally outrageous and strategically foolish to keep buying Russian rocket engines. Every time we purchase another one, we foster our long-term dependence on Russia, even as it threatens to cut off our access to space at any point."
"Those of us elected to serve in Congress owe Americans a legislative process that reflects their good conscience. This won't be accomplished by any one piece of legislation. But ending taxpayer subsidies to the Putin regime is a good place to start."
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