WASHINGTON — The US House has approved a plan that would limit President Barack Obama’s ability to shrink America’s nuclear arms arsenal without congressional approval, with its sponsor claiming the White House intends to ignore the Constitution.
The lower chamber late Wednesday night approved an amendment to an energy and water bill that would cut off funds for any atomic weapons reductions the White House might pursue without first seeking Senate approval.
The amendment was offered by House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, a hawkish Republican who claims the president plans to ignore the Constitution.
“On June 19, President Obama declared before an audience in Berlin that he was announcing significant changes to the nuclear force posture of the United States,” Turner wrote in a “dear colleagues” letter to other members drumming up support for the amendment.
“One of the most significant ambiguities to emerge from that announcement was whether the president would follow the bipartisan tradition that nuclear arms reduction agreements take place according to the Constitutional structures the framers intended,” Turner wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Defense News.
Turner and other congressional Republicans believe Obama is poised to order some US nuclear arms reductions, and has no plans to follow the precedent of first obtaining the upper chamber’s approval.
A White House official fired back Friday afternoon, referring Defense News to a June 11 administration policy document that stated House-passed provisions limiting the president’s ability to manage the nuclear weapons complex “would hamper the president’s ability to execute foreign policy.”
Such provisions would “purport to restrict the president’s constitutional authority to negotiate international agreements, including sole executive agreements for arms reduction,” according to the administration’s policy statement. The provisions also would “impinge the president’s authority to determine the number of strategic delivery vehicles needed to meet national security requirements,” the White House said.
What’s more, the White House document claims the House language would “limit the President’s authority to determine appropriate force structure to meet nuclear deterrence requirements and to set nuclear employment policy — authority exercised by every president in the nuclear age.”
Turner and other congressional Republicans see Obama and his administration possessing “disregard for long-enshrined practice,” which Turner in the letter dubs “disappointing, dangerous, and injures the checks and balances that are needed.”
The HASC member says those checks are needed “when it comes to international agreements with states like Russia, especially when Russia is actively cheating on major arms control agreements.”
Turner said, “thus far, the president has not seen fit to aggressively confront” Moscow over those alleged violations.
The amendment passed by voice vote, meaning there is no public record of how individual members voted nor the final margin. Whether the provision will be included in the final version of the energy and water bill will ultimately be up to a House-Senate conference committee.