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Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes

Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes
© Anna Moneymaker

A group of House Democrats and a Senate Democrat introduced a bill Tuesday that would ban the Trump administration’s plans for a so-called low-yield nuclear weapon.

“We should not fund President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE’s request for new low-yield nuclear weapons,” House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithDems eye ambitious agenda if House flips Five changes Democrats will seek at Pentagon if they win power US should reject Trump’s obsolete mercantilist idea MORE (D-Wash.) said in a statement. “His proposal dangerously lowers the threshold to nuclear use and siphons money away from genuine military readiness needs.”

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Smith introduced the bill in the House alongside Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.), John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security MORE (Calif.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerMarijuana and the midterms House lawmakers introduce bill to end US support in Yemen civil war Overnight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes MORE (Ore.). Democratic Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports EPA chief calls racist Facebook post he liked ‘absolutely offensive’ Senate sends bill regulating airline seat sizes to Trump MORE (Mass.) introduced the Senate version of the bill.

The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review called for the development of a low-yield nuclear warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The administration argues it needs such a weapon for deterrence purposes, as adversaries might think the United States would never use its current arsenal.

Opponents of the plan, including Democratic lawmakers and arms control groups, argue it is too costly, could spark a new nuclear arms race and could lead to a greater willingness to use nuclear weapons if officials believe “low-yield” is less destructive.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed into law last month authorizes the development of a low-yield warhead. The Energy Department spending bill passed last week would allocate $65 million for the project.

The bill introduced Tuesday would repeal the section of the NDAA authorizing the warhead and instead ban any funding from being used for “the research and development, production or deployment of the Trident D5 low-yield nuclear warhead.”

“There’s no such thing as a low-yield nuclear war,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Wash.) said in a statement. “Use of any nuclear weapon, regardless of its killing power, could be catastrophically destabilizing. It opens the door for severe miscalculation and could drag the U.S. and our allies into a devastating nuclear conflict.”

The bill is unlikely to get a vote in a Republican-controlled Congress. Smith, though, has said curbing Trump’s nuclear weapons plans would be one of his priorities if Democrats take back control of the House in the midterm elections and he becomes Armed Services Committee chairman. 

“I think the Republican Party and the Nuclear Posture Review contemplates a lot more nuclear weapons than I and I think most Democrats think we need. We also think the idea of low-yield nuclear weapons are extremely problematic going forward,” Smith said at the Defense News conference earlier this month. “When we look at the larger budget picture, that’s not the best place to spend the money.”