Armed Services panel backs East Coast missile defense site

The House Armed Services Committee rejected Democratic attempts Wednesday to kill a proposal for a new East Coast missile defense site.

The committee defeated an amendment from Rep. John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiBombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Krystal Ball: New Biden ad is everything that's wrong with Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Impeachment of Trump resumes MORE (D-Calif.) that would have stripped the provision from the Defense authorization bill 28-33 on a near party-line vote. Two Republicans, Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), joined Democrats to back the measure.

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Republicans’ inclusion of $100 million to start planning for a third U.S. missile interceptor site by 2015 in this year’s Defense authorization bill was criticized by Democrats, who say it’s a political move that the Pentagon does not want.

Strategic Forces subcommittee ranking member Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) said in a statement after the vote she was “frustrated” that Republicans “have directed hundreds of millions of dollars to an un-required missile defense system that our own military leaders have clearly stated they do not want.”

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the Strategic Forces subcommittee, said the site was necessary to prepare for a growing threat from Iran and North Korea.

The issue generated some of the most heated debate during the day-session of the committee’s marathon mark-up, which is expected to last until early Thursday morning.

Turner cited Obama’s “hot mic” incident with in March with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in claiming that Congress had to push forward on missile defense because president was not. But Democrats argued he and the Republicans were merely trying to paint the president as weak on national security.

A host of other missile-defense amendments from Sanchez and other Democrats were voted down by the committee, including attempts to limit funds for ground-based interceptors and eliminating a section that would limit funds on the Obama administration’s European missile defense program.

The committee adopted a 48-page amendment from Turner that limits funding for the implementation of the New START treaty with Russia.