A House Divided

 In Nuclear Weapons, Peace Action West News, washington

The House of Representatives just can’t make up its mind. They have passed two pieces of legislation recently that directly conflict with each other regarding spending levels for certain nuclear weapons programs.

A small group of Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee seem to think that if they yell loudly enough, they can convince us all that the Cold War never ended. If you remember, in May the House voted on the Defense Authorization and we did this roundup on some of the crazy things this group was up to: attempting to reverse the New START treaty, escalating spending on nuclear bombs and facilities that we can’t afford, and even trying to prevent the President from reducing our nuclear arsenal at all.

Well, last week, the House voted on the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which approves the funding for some of the same programs covered in the Defense Authorization. So, here’s an update on some parts of the nuclear weapons budget and where they stand after these two contradictory measures.

New Los Alamos bomb plant

  • The House version of the budget did notfund the new bomb plant at Los Alamos. Now, this is what is strange. The Defense Authorization that passed last month had $100 million for this new plant, but this funding bill has $0. And both of these bills were written and passed by Republicans. Republicans working on the budget agreed with the Department of Energy and President Obama, that we don’t need this plant and it is a waste of money.
  • Now, because the funding bill does not provide any money for this plant, that should mean that the Los Alamos plant will indeed be delayed for this year. Which is a huge victory for the grassroots, because we have been arguing for years now that we do not need this plant and should not build it.
  • However, this isn’t final until the bills have also passed the Senate and a final version has been agreed upon. So we will continue to monitor the budget process in Congress, and make sure they save billions of taxpayer dollars by stopping this massive, unnecessary, over-priced nuclear bomb plant before it starts.

The right priorities for nonproliferation funding

  • In an exciting turn of events, Rep. Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska, introduced an amendment on the floor that moves money between two different programs in the nuclear nonproliferation budget. It cut $17 million from the dangerous Mixed Oxide fuel plant project that would make nuclear fuel from weapons-grade plutonium, and is already horrendously over budget and behind schedule. And then moves that money to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, an important nonproliferation program that locks up loose nuclear material around the world. And, because the amendment was introduced by the Republican who chairs the committee, the amendment passed by a landslide, 328-89. See the roll call here.
  • The reason this is exciting is because this is a reversal of the past priorities for nonproliferation money, and this is exactly what we want to see happen. And having real bipartisan support on this amendment is a huge step forward. Unfortunately, the budget for the mixed-oxide program is still pretty huge, but we will work next year to build on this success and make even bigger cuts.

That’s enough for nonproliferation

  • Another amendment, from Rep. Loretta Sanchez, would have added another $16 million to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative mentioned above. Rep. Sanchez has been a tireless champion for this important program that has already removed more than 120 bombs worth of uranium and plutonium and has secured more than 900 vulnerable sites in more than 40 countries. Unfortunately, this amendment did not have the same kind of bipartisan support as the Fortenberry amendment, and it failed, 182-237. See the roll call here.

Wasting more money on nuclear weapons

  • The Obama administration this year asked for one of the biggest budgets for nuclear weapons ever, a total of $7.6 billion. But apparently feeling that we weren’t throwing enough money away on dangerous, outdated nuclear bombs, Republicans in the House wasted even more taxpayer dollars, creating a budget that totals almost $7.9 billion. Rep. Polis introduced an amendment on the floor that would have slashed that extra $298 million, and left the budget at $7.6 billion for 2013. The amendment failed 138-281. See the roll call here.
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