WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama is getting the help of his former political rival in seeking to stop a defense program his administration no longer believes is necessary, but some in Congress want to continue.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who ran against Obama in the 2008 presidential election, wants to remove funding for constructing seven more F-22 jets.
The program is included in the Senate's defense authorization bill even though Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he opposes building any more of the planes. The White House said it would veto a bill that funded more of the jets.
On Monday, McCain and Senate Armed Services committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) introduced an amendment to strip the funds from the bill. The Armed Services committee, on which McCain serves, approved the amendment.
"Neither the president nor the Pentagon asked for F-22s or the alternate engine in the budget request," McCain said Monday on the Senate floor. "Secretary Gates has consistently opposed the need for additional F-22 aircraft and has indicated on a number of occasions that additional F-22 aircraft are not required to meet potential threats posed by near-term adversaries."
McCain even tweeted about his opposition to his followers on Twitter, saying he was "fighting the good fight."
The Pentagon wants instead wants to focus on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Obama reiterated his veto threat if the defense bill includes funding for more F-22s, sending a letter to McCain and Levin on Monday saying bluntly "we do not need these planes."
"To continue to procure additional F-22s would be to waste valuable resources that should be more usefully employed," Obama wrote.
The F-22 has been the center of much debate on Capitol Hill. The Lockheed Martin jet has never been used in Afghanistan or Iraq, but supporters contend it is needed to fight more sophisticated enemies who might confront the United States in the future, like China or Russia. Those supporters, including Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both Georgia Republicans, also note the thousands of jobs that will be lost if the F-22 program is halted.
"The federal government must tighten its belt in these tough economic times just as Americans have to do, but we must also maintain a strong national defense in order to protect our country," Isakson said in a statement last month. "The F-22A is the most sophisticated fighter jet in the world with the latest stealth technology to reduce detection by radar ... The administration
needs to seriously consider the ramifications of vetoing legislation that authorizes funding for our military men and women and their families as well as critical military construction projects."
The Defense Department argues that the 187 existing F-22s represent a sufficient supply in the event of future need. In a letter to McCain and Levin, Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, write that further fighting capabilities will be met by both the F-35 and unmanned aerial vehicles. The letter was released to CNN Monday by McCain's office.
"It is important to note that the F-35 is half a generation newer aircraft than the F-22, and more capable in a number of areas such electronic warfare and combating enemy air defenses," said Gates and Mullen.
Updated at 4:25 p.m. EDT