House Panel Approves $733 Billion Military Bill, Drops Low-Yield Nukes

Republican amendment backing tactical nukes failed

The House Armed Services Committee has passed a $733 billion version of the annual military spending bill. The vote was 33-24, largely along party lines, and will send this version to the House floor for a vote.

Once the House passes a version of this bill, it must be reconciled with the Senate version. That’s going to be a big job this year, as there are some major differences in the bills on some key subjects of debate.

One of the biggest issues is the question of low-yield nuclear weapons. The House bill ends funding for the low-yield nuclear missiles, and bars their deployment. A last minute Republican amendment in committee to preserve the weapons failed.

Low-yield nukes are intended by the Pentagon to be more usable, tactical weapons, that would have a much lower threshold for deployment. This was the source of support among hawks, but also the source of much opposition, concern that more usable nukes would usher in an era where nuclear warfare is more routine.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) angrily condemned the failure of the amendment, saying that not having the option of tactical nuclear war  “does not make sense to me,” and that he didn’t understand abandoning the plan after it had already been funded in the past. Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chair Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) said the tactical program is such a tiny fraction of the US nuclear force that it isn’t even a rounding error, so it is misleading for hawks to call it vital to the arsenal.

The House bill also adopted a measure that would create a Space Corps as a separate branch of the US military. The Senate bill also has a similar force, but with different language and differences in approach to establishing the force.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.