By Emelie Rutherford

Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he expects a close Senate vote next week on an amendment he and panel Ranking Member John McCain (R- Ariz.) will offer to strike F-22 fighter jet funding from the Pentagon policy bill.

The Senate will start debating the FY ’10 defense authorization legislation next Monday morning, under the terms of a unanimous consent agreement that passed the chamber on Wednesday. Levin predicted the debate will run all next week, if not longer.

Levin and McCain want to remove from the bill $1.75 billion to buy seven of Lockheed Martin‘s [LMT] F-22s beyond the 187 the Pentagon wants. The pair voted against an amendment from Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) to add the funds to the bill during the SASC markup last month, but were outvoted by a group of mainly Republican members.

Levin told reporters yesterday at the Capitol that he and McCain will offer their anti-F-22 amendment as a standalone measure and not as part of a manager’s package of largely non-controversial bill changes. They may not have time to collect co-sponsors on the F-22 amendment before it is introduced, he said.

The White House’s Office of Administration and Budget in a Statement of Administration Policy suggested the F-22 funding and monies to continue developing a F-35 second-engine program, a General Electric [GE]-Rolls Royce effort, could spur a presidential veto. The statement was on the House-passed defense authorization bill. which adds advance-procurement F-22 monies and continued funding for the F-35 second engine to the Pentagon’s budget, neither of which the Obama administration requested.

Levin said there likely will be amendments next week on removing the F-35 second-engine funding and boosting missile defense monies in the bill.

McCain opposes the F-35 alternate engine program, which Levin supports.

“I don’t how many tens of thousands of engines we’re going to have, but I think that it will help costs significantly if we can have a competitor engine,” Levin said. “I don’t have a back-home interest in it at all.”

The House Appropriations Defense subcommittee is expected to mark up its version of FY ’10 defense appropriations bill next week in closed session. Panel Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) has talked favorably about adding F-22 funds to his panel’s bill.