WASHINGTON — U.S. House Democrats have failed in several attempts to hinder the Trump administration’s plan to expand America’s nuclear arsenal with a low-yield nuclear weapon, but four of them are poised to take another shot.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., has proposed an amendment to the 2019 Energy and Water appropriations bill, up for floor debate next week, that would strip the weapon’s funding. The $44.7 billion bill includes annual funding for nuclear weapons and is $8.17 billion more than the president’s budget request.
Lee’s amendment would cut all $65 million for the W76-2 warhead and transfer it to defense nuclear nonproliferation account. That amendment to the bill, one of 50 lawmakers have offered as of Friday morning, must clear the House Rules Committee before it can receive floor consideration.
The Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review calls for two nuclear designs: a low-yield variant of the W76 on Trident II missiles aboard America’s nuclear submarines and a potential new sea-launched nuclear cruise missile.
The systems are supposed to deter Russia from using its own arsenal of low-yield nuclear weapons, but opponents see it as easing the path to nuclear war.
House Democrats have been unable to overcome Republican majorities in recent attempts.
Less than two weeks ago, a weaker amendment to fence half the W76-2 funding in lieu on a report was debated and defeated in a mostly partly line vote, 188-226. Its sponsors — Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and John Garamendi, D-Calif., have joined with Lee and Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.
House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., offered an amendment similar to Lee’s in his panel’s markup of the annual defense policy bill. It was voted down.
House Energy and Water Development Subcommittee Ranking Member Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio., supported Lee’s amendment during the energy and water appropriations bill’s markup last month. Lee offered and withdrew it at the time, however.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.