Lawmaker Sees Fresh Push Toward Nuclear-Weapon Spending Cuts

Representative Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), shown last year, on Wednesday said that he is planning new legislation aimed at reducing nuclear-weapons spending.
National Journal
Douglas P. Guarino, Global Security Newswire
See more stories about...
Douglas P. Guarino, Global Security Newswire
Nov. 13, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — In a seem­ingly up­hill battle aimed at mak­ing budget cuts to con­tro­ver­sial nuc­le­ar weapons pro­grams, Rep­res­ent­at­ive Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) is seek­ing in­spir­a­tion from Chica­go’s most be­lea­guered base­ball team.

“It may seem ir­ra­tion­al to be that op­tim­ist­ic in Con­gress, but “¦ I am a Cub fan,” Quigley said dur­ing a pan­el dis­cus­sion on Cap­it­ol Hill Wed­nes­day. “If any­body is op­tim­ist­ic it is a Cub fan — any­body can have a bad cen­tury.”

Even Quigley was sur­prised when an at­tempt earli­er this year to pass le­gis­la­tion aimed at scal­ing back con­tro­ver­sial plans to mod­ern­ize the B-61 nuc­le­ar bomb failed by only 22 votes. But the near-miss showed that there may be “some light at the end of the tun­nel,” he said.

The law­maker in Ju­ly offered an amend­ment to the fisc­al 2014 House en­ergy and wa­ter ap­pro­pri­ations bill that would have cut $23.7 mil­lion from the $551 mil­lion budget pro­pos­al for work on ex­tend­ing the life of the B-61. Crit­ics say the cur­rent plan to mod­ern­ize the weapon — which is sta­tioned in U.S. al­lied coun­tries in Europe — is overly am­bi­tious and goes above and bey­ond simple re­fur­bish­ments needed to con­tin­ue its use.

The Quigley amend­ment, co-sponsored by Rep­res­ent­at­ive Jared Pol­is (D-Colo.), failed by a 227-196 vote. The Illinois con­gress­man said that a pro­vi­sion in the amend­ment that would have dir­ec­ted the cost sav­ings to go to­ward re­du­cing the na­tion­al de­fi­cit en­abled him to at­tract some Re­pub­lic­an votes.

However, the same pro­vi­sion caused some Demo­crats to vote against the bill, be­cause it would have pre­ven­ted the sav­ings from be­ing put to­ward oth­er fed­er­al pro­grams, Quigley said. He is now look­ing to ad­just his le­gis­lat­ive strategy to at­tract enough votes from both sides of the aisle.

“It’s ex­traordin­ar­ily tricky but I think it can be done,” Quigley said. “There’s more votes out there on the left — in fact, if I had got­ten every Demo­crat­ic vote, this would have passed. If I had got­ten just a few more Re­pub­lic­an votes, this would have passed.”

A pos­sible strategy would be to craft le­gis­la­tion that would “make deep­er cuts on [in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­siles] and B-61s and use the money on a wide vari­ety of is­sues,” ac­cord­ing to Quigley.

“First of all, let the De­part­ment of De­fense use the money as they see the sav­ings on pro­grams that ac­tu­ally keep us safe like coun­terter­ror­ism and in­tel­li­gence is­sues,” Quigley said. “Let’s use some of the money to re­duce the debt and de­fi­cit and some of the money to deal with so­cial pro­grams. It may seem ideal­ist­ic, but something along those lines is what’s go­ing to get you to 218 votes.”

Quigley told re­port­ers that he and his con­gres­sion­al al­lies are in the early stages of de­vel­op­ing a new, “com­pre­hens­ive bill.” He is look­ing “at the very least to edu­cate the House as we go in­to the next year of ap­pro­pri­ations” and to “ad­dress the very is­sues of what’s an ap­pro­pri­ate nuc­le­ar force, what types of weapons make sense.”

After speak­ing at the event, the Illinois con­gress­man told Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire that he had not yet iden­ti­fied a le­gis­lat­ive vehicle to which he could at­tach such pro­vi­sions. However, Quigley noted his role as a mem­ber of the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee, hint­ing that the fisc­al 2015 House en­ergy and wa­ter ap­pro­pri­ations bill might be a likely tar­get.

Ef­forts to cut fund­ing for the B-61 pro­gram have been backed by Sen­at­or Di­anne Fein­stein (D-Cal­if.), who chairs the Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­ations En­ergy and Wa­ter Sub­com­mit­tee. That pan­el earli­er this year ap­proved a bill that would provide $369 mil­lion for the B-61 pro­gram — $168 mil­lion less than the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had re­ques­ted.

Fein­stein on Wed­nes­day noted that the ad­min­is­tra­tion has jus­ti­fied the B-61 pro­gram in part by say­ing it would en­able the re­tire­ment of the sig­ni­fic­antly more power­ful B-83 nuc­le­ar bomb.

“However, we have not seen an of­fi­cial doc­u­ment from the [ad­min­is­tra­tion’s] Nuc­le­ar Weapons Coun­cil that com­mits to re­tir­ing and dis­mant­ling the B-83 in an ex­change for the re­fur­bished B-61,” Fein­stein said. “So I’ll be­lieve it when I see it.”

What We're Following See More »
WILL APPEAR TOGETHER TOMORROW
As Expected, Clinton Goes with Kaine
18 hours ago
THE LATEST
SO MUCH FOR THE RATINGS BUMP
Convention Ratings Same as 2012
1 days ago
THE LATEST
8,000 DOCUMENTS
Wikileaks Releases Trove of DNC Docs
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"Wikileaks published more than 8,000 documents purportedly taken from the Democratic National Committee Friday, just days before the start of the party's convention in Philadelphia. The documents included briefings on off-the-record fundraisers and candid photographs."

Source:
YES, WE KAINE?
Clinton Announcing VP Pick Today
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Hillary Clinton "is widely expected to announce her choice" of vice president "in an email to supporters while on a campaign swing in Florida on Friday afternoon." The consensus: it'll be Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, although Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are also said to be in the running.

Source:
EARLY BUMP FOR TRUMP?
New Round of Polls Show a Tight Race
1 days ago
THE LATEST
  • A Rasmussen Reports poll shows Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton, 43%-42%, the fourth week in a row he's led the poll (one of the few poll in which he's led consistently of late).
  • A Reuters/Ipsos survey shows Clinton leading 40%-36%. In a four-way race, she maintains her four-point lead, 39%-35%, with Gary Johnson and Jill Stein pulling 7% and 3%, respectively.
  • And the LA Times/USC daily tracking poll shows a dead heat, with Trump ahead by about half a percentage point.
×