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Bush Nuclear Weapons Plan Hits House Roadblock

By David Ruppe

Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON — The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill Friday that completely omitted money for controversial nuclear weapons research and development programs requested by the Bush administration.

In approving its version of the fiscal 2005 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill in a 370-16 vote, the House did not provide the requested $27.6 million for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator study or $9 million for other nuclear weapons research and development work under the Advanced Concepts Initiative (see GSN, June 10).

It also omitted $29.8 million to begin building a new nuclear weapons pit production facility called the Modern Pit Facility.

The decision to omit the funding originated with House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee Chairman David Hobson (R-Ohio), and was approved by his subcommittee and the full Appropriations Committee.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet voted on its version of the bill.

The White House released a statement Friday condemning the omissions and a statement by the Energy Department urged that the money be added when the House and Senate meet to reconcile differences in their respective versions of the bill.

“The administration strongly opposes the elimination of funding for the Advanced Concepts Initiative, the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator study, and planning for the Modern Pit Facility. These reductions, if sustained, would diminish the nation’s ability to respond to future national security threats,” the White House said in its statement.

The Bush administration suggested that the money be redirected from the Army Corps of Engineers or the Energy Department’s nuclear energy research and development funding.

Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), who has two nuclear weapons laboratories in her district, praised the cuts. The decision “demonstrates the distrust and growing bipartisan concern about the Bush administration's future nuclear policy,” she said in a prepared statement.

“The administration intends to create an international arena where nuclear weapons are prized and nonproliferation programs are nullified,” she said.

An amendment proposed by Tauscher last month to block funding for the nuclear programs in the House fiscal 2005 defense authorization bill was narrowly defeated by 10 votes, largely along partisan lines.

Both the House and the Senate separately approved full authorization for the programs in the defense funding bill.

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