SPONSORED:

Top Democrats demand answers on Trump administration's 'unfathomable' consideration of nuclear testing

A group of top House Democrats is demanding answers from the Trump administration on reported conversations within the administration on whether to resume nuclear testing.

“It is unfathomable that the administration is considering something so short-sighted and dangerous, and that directly contradicts its own 2018 Nuclear Posture Review,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter Monday to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military Navy denies NFL rookie Cameron Kinley's request to delay commission to play for Tampa Bay Overnight Defense: Pentagon keeps Trump-era ban on flying LGBT flags | NATO chief urges 'consequences' for Belarus MORE.

The posture review, the lawmakers wrote, “which this administration often cites as inviolable, makes clear that ‘the United States will not resume nuclear explosive testing unless necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.’ ”

ADVERTISEMENT

The letter was signed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithThe tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Congress must stop the march toward war with China Pelosi floats Democrat-led investigation of Jan. 6 as commission alternative MORE (D-Wash.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyLobbying world Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Biden needs to tear down bureaucratic walls and refocus Middle East programs MORE (D-N.Y.), along with Reps. Jim CooperJim CooperLiberal advocacy group stirs debate, discomfort with primary challenges Progressive group backing primary challenger to Tennessee Democrat GOP leader to try to force Swalwell off panel MORE (D-Tenn.), chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces; Marcy KapturMarcia (Marcy) Carolyn KapturThe Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez Democrats demand Biden administration reopen probe into Tamir Rice's death Create a bulwark against Chinese economic coercion: Advance open RAN in Europe MORE (D-Ohio), chairwoman of the Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water; and Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

The Pentagon declined to comment, with spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Carver saying that "as with all congressional correspondence, we will respond directly to the author(s) of the letter.”

A Department of Energy official said the department received the letter and "will respond to the members through the appropriate channels."

A separate letter Monday to President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE, Esper and Brouillette from Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenNew Alzheimer's drug sparks backlash over FDA, pricing The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain Senate panel advances nominations for key Treasury positions MORE (D-Ore.) and Rep. Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterRepublicans seek vindication amid reemergence of Wuhan lab theory Overnight Health Care: White House pushes for independent investigation on COVID-19 origins | Former Trump FDA chief cites growing circumstantial evidence on lab theory | US advises against traveling to Japan ahead of Olympics COVID-19 Wuhan lab theory gets more serious look MORE (D-Ill.), co-signed by 80 other House and Senate Democrats, similarly warned that “taking this unnecessary and provocative step would be an abdication of America’s scientific leadership and would weaken our ability to make the world a safer place to live.”

Also Monday, Democratic Reps. Dina TitusAlice (Dina) Costandina TitusShakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' Lawmakers roll out legislation to defend pipelines against cyber threats House Democrats introduce bill to address diversity at State Department MORE and Steven HorsfordSteven Alexander HorsfordWorkers and seniors deserve investments in home care infrastructure Biden unveils plan for racial equity at Tulsa Race Massacre centennial Tulsa marks race massacre centennial as US grapples with racial injustice MORE, both representing Nevada, introduced a bill that seeks to prevent a resumption in nuclear testing. The legislation is a companion bill to one introduced in the upper chamber last week by Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyClimate progressives launch first action against Biden amid growing frustration Senate Democrats urge Google to conduct racial equity audit Senate climate advocates start digging in on infrastructure goals MORE (D-Mass.).

ADVERTISEMENT

The Washington Post reported last month that the idea of conducting the United States’s first nuclear test in decades was raised at a May 15 meeting of senior officials. An official told the Post a test could be useful to gain leverage over Russia and China as the administration seeks a new trilateral nuclear agreement.

One official told the Post the idea for a test is “very much an ongoing conversation,” while another official said a decision was made to avoid resuming testing.

The only country known to have conducted a nuclear test this century is North Korea.

The Trump administration, without evidence, has also in recent months accused Russia and China of conducting very low-yield tests.

The United States has not conducted an explosive nuclear test since 1992, checking the efficacy and reliability of its weapons with subcritical tests that produce no nuclear yield, computer simulations and other scientific methods.

ADVERTISEMENT

The United States has adhered to a moratorium even as it has not ratified a United Nations agreement to ban testing known as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The treaty has not been ratified by enough countries to enter into force, but major world powers have followed its main tenet of ending nuclear tests.

“As the nation which tested more nuclear devices than every other nation combined, the United States benefits most from a global testing moratorium,” the House Democrats wrote in their letter. “The notion that resuming testing would somehow pressure Russia or China into arms control negotiations is baseless and uninformed. Resuming testing would open the door for widespread global testing, which would only serve to benefit our adversaries and make Americans less safe.”

The lawmakers demanded answers to questions by June 22, as well as a briefing by June 25. Questions include under what legal authority and funding testing is being considered, whether the intelligence community is analyzing what the effects of a test would be on U.S. allies and adversaries, and whether there has been any independent assessment requested by the Energy or Defense departments on the need, cost and effect of resuming nuclear testing.

The lawmakers also argued a resumption of nuclear testing would have “far-reaching human and environmental impacts.”

“One need look no further than the public health and environmental toll that previous nuclear testing—both by the U.S. and by others—has taken here at home and around the globe,” they wrote. “The U.S. taxpayers have spent billions of dollars and will continue to spend billions more in the coming decades to address these impacts.”

Updated at 5:15 p.m.