House considers few nuclear amendments to FY 2015 defense appropriations bill

On June 20 the House passed the FY 2015 Defense Appropriations bill by a vote of 340-73. For our summary of the House Appropriations Committee version of the bill, see here. For the Obama administration's reaction to the bill, see here. And for a full list of amendments debated on the House floor, see here.

The House debated fewer nuclear weapons and related amendments than it has on past Defense Appropriations bills. Only two such amendments received roll call votes:

  • Nadler (D-NY) amendment on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) to strike the existing bill language that prohibits funding to reduce Minuteman III ICBM silos (Rejected 187-233).
  • Blumenauer (D-OR) amendment to eliminate $3.4 million for the new long-range standoff weapon (LRSO) program (also known as the replacement program for the existing nuclear-armed air launched cruise missile (ALCM) (Rejected 179-242). The FY 2015 budget submission defers LRSO program funding by 3 years, effectively postponing a final decision on development until the next administration. The House Appropriations Committee had actually already cut $1.5 million from the $4.9 million request before Rep. Blumenauer moved to eliminate the remaining funding.
The House adopted by voice vote an amendment offered by Rep. Daines (R-MT) the intent of which is to prohibit funding to reduce Minuteman III ICBM silos not only in FY 2015 as mandated in the Committee version of the bill, but, well, basically forever.

Rep. Garamendi offered two amendments concerning the planned nuclear capability for the F-35. One amendment would have eliminated the $15.6 million budget request for this capability, but after explaining his amendment on the House floor, Rep. Garamendi withdrew it.

The second amendment would have fenced the funding for the nuclear capability until the Pentagon delivers to Congress the report described under the heading ‘‘Cost Sharing of Forward-Deployed Nuclear Weapons’’ in the Committee report on the bill and such report includes, among other matters, the total anticipated cost to make the F–35 Joint Strike Fighter nuclear capable, the number of aircraft expected to have such capability, and the total number of tactical B–61s expected to undergo the Life Extension Program, including the total anticipated program cost, specific to tactical B–61s. For more on the cost-sharing provision in the Committee report, see here. Rep. Garamendi sought to force a vote on the amendment, but Republicans successfully raised a point of order against the amendment.

There were no amendments on missile defense, though the Committee version of the bill made some interesting cuts to missile defense programs (such as the Aegis system) that were opposed by the administration. In addition, there were no efforts to block funding for implementation of the New START treaty, though the House did approve a floor amendment offered by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) to prohibit funding to implement the Open Skies Treaty.

While the House has completed its action on the Defense Appropriations bill, the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee has yet to mark up its version of the bill. The current estimate is that the Subcommittee will mark up the bill the week of July 7 or July 14, followed quickly thereafter by the full Committee mark of the legislation. Few expect the full Senate to take up the bill, meaning the Senate will go to conference with the House with the Appropriations Committee version of the bill.