It was among several amendments to the House draft of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that were voted down Wednesday afternoon. Of the 558 amendments filed for the NDAA debate this week, the House Rules Committee made in order 271 of them and the House voted to adopt 98 of them Tuesday night.
The rejected amendment would have fenced half the 2019 funding for low-yield nuclear warhead development in lieu of an assessment of its impact on strategic stability and options to reduce the risk of miscalculation. Reps. Jim Garamendi, D-Calif., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., sponsored it.
The amendment was defeated 188-226 largely along party lines, with seven Democrats voting “no” with Republicans and five Republicans voting “yes” with Democrats.
The Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review, released in February, called for the creation of two new nuclear designs — a low-yield variant of the W76 nuclear warhead on Trident II missiles aboard America’s nuclear submarines, as well as a potential new sea-launched nuclear cruise missile.
The vote came as group of prominent former national security officials sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to deny the administration’s funding request for the W76-2 variant.
During floor debates Tuesday, Democrats argued against obtaining a more usable nuclear weapon, while Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., argued the U.S. must match Russia’s many thousands of low-yield nuclear weapons to deter their use.
“America’s approach should be nuclear weapons are the red line to all red lines,” House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith, D-Wash., said in response. “What we need to communicate to Russia is: If you use a nuclear weapon, we will respond with nuclear weapons, so don’t.”
The House defeated an amendment by Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., that would have required 20-year life-cycle cost estimates for each type of nuclear weapon. The vote was a relatively close 198-217, as only one Democrat broke ranks to vote “no” with 216 Republicans and nine Republicans voting “yes” with 189 Democrats.
An amendment to strike the authorization for all off-book wartime funds, from Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., was voted down 62-351. Seven Republicans and 55 Democrats voted “yes,” while 217 Republicans and 134 Democrats voted “no.”
Hawaii Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s amendment to strike a requirement in the NDAA for a strategy to counter destabilizing activities by Iran was rejected, 60-355. Fifty-two Democrats and eight Republicans voted “yes,” and 217 Republicans and 138 Democrats voted “no.”
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.