Lamenting the defeat of her amendment to defund the Pentagon's $65 million program for so-called "low-yield" nuclear weapons in a House's appropriations bill on Thursday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif) warned of the existential threat these weapons represent as they fuel a new arms race in an increasingly dangerous world.
"Given the instability in the world and in this White House, provoking nuclear brinksmanship is beyond reckless. Congress should be building peace and diplomacy, not inviting a miscalculation with nuclear consequences." —Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)"There is no such thing as a small nuclear weapon," Lee declared after the amendment was defeated in a 241 to 177 vote—along mostly partisan lines—in the GOP-controlled House. The full roll call is here.
"Spending $65 million on a low-yield nuclear weapon – with unprecedented submarine-launch capability – heightens the risk of nuclear war," Lee added. "We should be de-escalating tensions with our allies, not provoking a new nuclear arms race."
Overall the spending in question involves the 2019 Energy and Water appropriations bill, which covers the nation's nuclear weapons program, including an estimated $44.7 billion for annual funding—nearly $9 billion more than requested by the president.
Lee's amendment called for cutting all $65 million for the W76-2 warhead—a 100 kiloton nuclear weapon, which is more than six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima—and transferring those funds to a government nuclear nonproliferation account.
As Defense News reports, "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 nonproliferation fund, Lee said, operates a program that "is critical to reducing the spread of nuclear weapons here at home and abroad. Instead of sinking more money into nuclear weapons that don't enhance our national security, we should be preventing the proliferation of nuclear material and enforcing the treaties and arms control agreements on the books."
She added, "Given the instability in the world and in this White House, provoking nuclear brinksmanship is beyond reckless. Congress should be building peace and diplomacy, not inviting a miscalculation with nuclear consequences."