House Dems demand White House veto of defense budget

Led by Rep. Edward Markey (D- Mass.), the group of roughly 30 lawmakers claims language inserted into the House version of the fiscal 2013 defense bill by Republicans would hinder White House efforts to comply with stockpile reductions under the New START treaty. 

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But including drawdown restrictions called for by the House into the final version of the DOD spending legislation would result in "a backwards-looking defense bill that does not reflect our current national security needs," Markey wrote in a letter sent to the White House.  

Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Jessie Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) were among the raft of Democratic lawmakers who signed onto Markey's letter, sent on Monday. 

White House officials also demanded a presidential veto of the FY '13 defense bill after the full House approved the defense bill in May. 

Such limitations on nuclear weapons policy "would set onerous conditions on the administration's ability to implement the [New START] treaty," according to a Statement of Administration Policy issued that month. 

Markey and others went a step further on Monday, claiming the legislation "will make the U.S. less safe," according to the letter. 

The New START treaty between Russia and the United States calls for massive drawdowns in each country's nuclear arsenals to take place by February 2018. 

Washington and Moscow are in the midst of negotiations over the pace of those drawdowns called for in the treaty. 

The United States has already reduced its nuclear stockpile by 75 percent compared to the arsenal's size at the height of the Cold War, according to Pentagon officials. But opponents in Congress claim the deal forces the United States to reduce its nuclear weapons while allowing Russia to add to its own nuclear cache.

That said, House Republicans included a slew of reporting mandates and legislative restraints on the administration's efforts to draw down the nuclear stockpile in their version of the FY '13 defense bill. 

From capping the number of "strategic delivery systems" included in the U.S. nuclear arsenal to outright blocking of any nuclear weapon drawdowns without congressional consent, the mandates included in the House bill on nuclear reductions have infuriated administration officials. 

As a result of those measures, House Republicans on the Armed Services Committee have "turned a blind eye to history and doubled down on nuclear weapons policies of the past," Markey wrote.

"We must reject attempts to retreat from our commitments and relations and adopt a Cold War mentality that is no longer reflective of our national security needs," according to the letter. 

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