The House of Representatives yesterday approved the FY 2014 Energy and Water Appropriations bill (H.R. 2642) by a vote of 227-198. All but 8 Democrats voted against the bill.
One of the less noticed but most significant features of the bill is that it cuts the Obama Administration nuclear weapons budget request by $193 million – despite complaints from other Republicans that the Administration has not provided enough funds for the nuclear enterprise.
Below is a list of amendments that were debated related to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
-Quigley (D-IL) and Polis (D-CO) amendment to eliminate the $23.7 million added by the House Appropriations Committee above the budget request for the B61 life extension program. The amendment failed by a vote of 196-227. 30 Republicans voted for the amendment. Combined with the Senate Appropriations Committee’s decision to reduce the budget request for the refurbishment plan by 30%, the House vote spells big trouble for the program.
-Polis (D-CO) amendment to eliminate the $13 million added by the House Appropriations Committee above the budget request for the W76 life extension program. The amendment failed by a vote of 182-243. 18 Republicans voted for the amendment.
-Heck (R-NV) amendment to transfer $16 million from the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to a project within Weapons Activities to build a security perimeter around the Nevada National Security Site. The amendment failed by a vote of 86-338. When compared to the vote on the Quigley B61 amendment, the resounding defeat of the Heck amendment demonstrates that there is stronger support in the House for cutting nuclear weapons programs than reducing core nonproliferation programs.
-Turner (R-OH) amendment to ensure that none of the funds appropriated by the bill may be used to reduce the US nuclear arsenal outside the auspices of a formal treaty. The amendment passed by a voice vote.
Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member March Kaptur (D-OH) noted that the Turner amendment is unnecessary because there are no funds in the bill that are allocated for nuclear weapons reductions below New START levels. She also stated that the amendment is constitutionally questionable since it “impinges on the President’s ability to set US nuclear weapons policy and usurps the President’s ability to retire, dismantle, or eliminate non-deployed nuclear weapons.” In addition, the amendment would eliminate options that previous Presidents have used to set US nuclear force levels. Previous Presidents, especially Republican Presidents, have adjusted the size of the nuclear arsenal both with – and without – formal treaties or executive agreements.
-Garamendi (D-CA) amendment to reduce funding for the Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel program by $1 million and direct NNSA to instead use the funds for an independent report to analyze potential cost-effective alternatives for plutonium disposition and a study examining whether there are other potential uses for the MOX facilities that have already been built. The amendment failed by a voice vote.
Reps Garamendi and Blumenauer (D-OR) had prepared an amendment to transfer $30 million from the MOX program to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, but in the end were unable to offer the amendment.
Democrats also offered a number of amendments that used weapons activities as a bill payer to increase funding for department of energy science and research programs, but none of these amendments were successful.
For the third year in a row, the dog that didn’t bark was a Republican amendment to increase funding for NNSA’s nuclear weapons activities account or a program within it. As has been the case since FY 2011, the House Appropriations Committee reduced the administration’s budget request for nuclear weapons programs, this time by $193 million below the FY 2014 budget request. While many Republican Members of Congress blame the Obama administration for not making good on its nuclear spending commitments, the reality is that House Republican appropriators continue to reduce the NNSA nuclear weapons budget below the administration’s request.