BILL CRAWFORD: Thad Cochran must keep clout to restore funding for LPD 28 to be built by Ingalls

Who knew the U.S. House Appropriations Committee would rush to load the gun for Jackson County voters?

Last week, I wrote that Jackson County voters played Russian roulette with their economic future by voting for challenger Chris McDaniel over Sen. Thad Cochran, the only member of Mississippi’s congressional delegation with enough seniority to fund ships for Ingalls Shipbuilding.

Days later, the House Appropriations Committee — going against the House and Senate Armed Services Committees — voted out its 2015 defense appropriations bill omitting funds for the next amphibious warship (LPD 28) to be built by Ingalls.

That puts approximately 3,000 Ingalls’ jobs on the firing line.

Saving these jobs now depends on Cochran’s ability to revive funding in the Senate next month, then having the clout to push funding through a joint House-Senate conference committee later this summer.

That would take significant clout in any case. If Jackson County voters pull the trigger to shoot down Cochran in the June 24 runoff, he may not retain enough clout to get it done. You saw how quickly House Republican Leader Eric Cantor lost his clout.

Here’s the deal. The Navy and Marine Corps drastically need more amphibious warships as older ships retire faster than new ones get built.

“If you asked me, ‘What’s your biggest shipbuilding concern,’ it’s ‘get the amphibs out,'” Navy CNO Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert told reporters after testifying before Congress, reported.

The Navy is already planning next generation amphibious warships, labeled LX(R)s, to succeed San Antonio class LPDs under construction at Ingalls. Plans call for these new ships to use a variant of Ingalls’ LPD hull design…

…Jockeying among senior Republicans on the House Armed Services and Appropriations Committees on what to fund and what not to fund demonstrates the great value of seniority — something it would take McDaniel more than 12 years to attain. (His willingness to “fight for Ingalls” would mean nothing until then.)

Thad Cochran is the only one with enough clout to get LPD 28 funded and protect Ingalls jobs.

Will Jackson County voters shoot him, and their economy, down? We’ll find out June 24th.