Lawmakers target Trump’s plan to change Air Force One’s color scheme

Updated 11:32 PM EDT, Wed June 12, 2019
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(CNN) —  

President Donald Trump has been personally involved in conversations about changing the color scheme of Air Force One but congressional lawmakers are working to limit his options for a redesign of the iconic aircraft.

The House Armed Services Committee voted 31-26 Wednesday to approve an amendment restricting the paint and interior decorating choices for new presidential aircraft that are currently in development.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Connecticut said he introduced the amendment to limit the cost of the new planes.

“Additional paint can add weight to the plane,” Courtney said. “Additional fixtures inside can also add to cost and delays to the delivery of the plane.”

But Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, raised an objection, saying the amendment “looks like an attempt to just poke at the President.”

“Prior to 2017, I don’t recall attempts to block things like paint colors,” he said.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, insisted the amendment was not an attempt to needle the President.

“As I understand it these planes are not even going to be delivered until late 2024, 2025. This President is not going to fly on this plane under any circumstances … we’re simply trying to exercise our oversight responsibilities to try to save the taxpayers money,” he said.

While the amendment was passed by the committee during markup for the new National Defense Authorization Act Wednesday, there is no guarantee it will be included in the final version of the bill, which must still be voted on by the full House and then reconciled with the Senate’s version of the bill.

But for now, it appears most lawmakers on the committee want to make sure Congress has a say in any potential changes to Air Force One’s design.

California Democrat Rep. John Garamendi called Air Force One “a representation of the power of the United States, the power of the President,” and said, “if someone wants to change its appearance, its scheme, then we ought to have a say in that.”

Air Force One was last redesigned by industrial designer Raymond Loewy for President John F. Kennedy in 1962, when it was painted sky blue and cyan.

Last year, an official familiar with the project told CNN that Trump was deeply involved in discussions about changing the look of the presidential aircraft but noted that no decisions had been made yet.

The iconic blue-and-white plane could be redrawn to include a splash of red, an official said at the time, but it’s far from certain what it will ultimately look like.

Axios first reported a possible design change to the plane.

Trump later confirmed that he wants the new Air Force One planes to be painted red, white and blue, a shift away from the classic “baby blue” design that they have had for decades.

“Air Force One is going to be incredible,” Trump told CBS in an interview last August. “It’s going to be the top of the line, the top in the world. And it’s going to be red, white and blue, which I think is appropriate.”

In February 2018, the White House announced that it struck a deal with Boeing over the development of two new Air Force One planes. The President requested the planes be ready 2021, at the beginning of his second term – three years sooner than the original plan of 2024.

The planes currently in operation have been in service since 1990.

But the development of the new planes was an early source of controversy in the weeks after Trump’s election, when he tweeted that the cost of the aircraft was “out of control” and he threatened to cancel production.

“Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!”

After a deal was finalized, the White House touted the negotiation as saving the American taxpayer around $1.4 billion from the original estimate.

CNN’s Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.