Patty Murray v. Richard Shelby: Brawl of the Week

Patty Murray has resumed a fight she picked last December with the state of Alabama over who should get to build 179 tankers for the Air Force.

Murray joined Gov. Chris Gregoire in Everett this week, trumpeting Boeing as the best company to build the planes. According to the company, the contract would help keep 11,000 people employed either at Boeing, the company's vendors, or at the restaurants and retailers who operate near the plant.

Murray was flanked by people holding signs saying "Doing it Right in the USA." Boeing's competitor for the contract is the Dutch-based company EADS, owner of Airbus.

But even though it's a foreign company, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) wants EADS to get the contract since the assembly line where Airbus would build the tankers is in Mobile, Ala.

Here are the highlights from Murray and Shelby's latest hooks and jabs as they fight for the contract:

Murray's best punches:

*We're number one! "The machinists and engineers that [are in Washington] today have the know how and experience that nobody else in the world does," Murray said Monday, implying that 'Bama machinists and engineers, well, kinda suck.

*Airbus cheats. Last March, the World Trade Organization ruled that the subsidies Airbus receives from European governments give it an unfair advantage. "I want to know how can you assure American taxpayers that they won't be spending money to support an illegally-subsidized company," Murray demanded of Secretary of Air Force Michael Donley at a hearing Wednesday.

*Do you really want a foreign company building planes for your military? " We're giving a foreign company owned by foreign countries the capability, the research and the development of the absolute backbone of our entire military air fleet and to me, as Americans, I worry about our security, what we're giving away, and what we're going to do 10, 15, 20 years from now when it's too late," Murray told Kwame Holman of The News Hour.

Shelby's best punches:

*You want to support domestic workers? Just where do you think Alabama is? If Airbus gets the bid the planes "will be made in Mobile," Shelby said Wednesday. "It will be made in America."

*Speaking of unfair competition. "A sole-sourced contract would have served only Boeing's interest," Shelby said in the buildup to this week's spat. "The presence of a competitor better serves the interest of our warfighters and American taxpayers."

The odds-on favorite: It's anybody's guess who gets the tankers. The Air Force will use whatever crazy math they employ to decide who can build workable planes for the best price. But either way the winner is the bar owners who will help tired assembly line workers drown their sorrows after a long day building tankers. Our recommendation to anyone thinking about opening a watering hole of their own: wait to see who gets the contract then open up shop as close to that factory as possible, whether in Everett or Mobile.

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