Washington Two House lawmakers are urging President Bush to ignore pressure from European leaders in choosing a new supplier for a $35 billion Air Force aerial refueling tanker contract.
Reps. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., and Norm Dicks, D-Wash., say they are responding to reports that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel lobbied Bush on the deal.
The European leaders are pushing for the team of Northrop Grumman Corp. and Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. to win the contract over rival Boeing Co.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe confirmed Friday that the leaders have raised the issue with Bush. But he said President Bush told them it's a Pentagon matter and that the White House does not have anything to do with it.
In a letter to Bush on Friday, Tiahrt and Dicks asked Bush to make sure the competition remains fair. They also argued that awarding the contract to EADS as an economic stimulus package for Europe was "unconscionable."
The Air Force initially awarded the contract to the Northrop team. But after Boeing protested, congressional investigators found mistakes in how the award was handled. The Pentagon has reopened the competition and expects to choose a winner by the end of the year.
Both Tiahrt and Dicks strongly support awarding the contract to Boeing. Each represents a district with thousands of Boeing employees.
The deal is the first of three contracts with as much as $100 billion to replace nearly 600 of the aging refueling tankers over the next three decades.
Officials from Alabama and other Southern states which stand to gain jobs if the contract is awarded to Northrop Grumman have also been pushing for the Pentagon to choose Northrop again.