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Bush Suffers Setback Over Nuclear Bill

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Issue: 24 Section: International News Topics: nuclear

November 29, 2004

Bush Suffers Setback Over Nuclear Bill

by Nathan Lepp

US Congress has rejected a bill to provide funds in the 2005 fiscal budget for the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons. Led by Rep. David Hobson (R-Ohio), the repeal of the bill is a small but significant coup by Republicans, who went against their own administration and voted with Democrats to refuse funding for research on low-yield atomic bombs ("mini-nukes") and a high-yield "bunker-buster" weapon. Designed to destroy targets deep underground, the proposed high-yield warhead could be as much as 10 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Linton Brooks of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) stated that such weapons are needed to ensure that there is no "invulnerable sanctuary" in the event of a "hypothetical future confrontation with a hypothetical generic dictator." In his rejection of this rationale, Hobson argued that the Energy Department's obsession with a new generation of nuclear weapons would be better devoted to maintaining the safety and security of the existing stockpile. At a symposium debating the proposed funding, Hobson stated that his concern over the penetrator weapon stemmed from a fear that "some idiot might try to use it."

According to Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, the ruling "is an important rejection of the administration's costly and counterproductive drive to invent new nuclear arms for new missions." Critics have repeatedly criticized the proposed bill as indicative of the Bush administration's hypocritical nuclear policy in light of international nonproliferation efforts and particularly Washington's demands that North Korea and Iran abandon the development of their own nuclear weapons arsenals. Arms control advocates are adamant that the further development of "usable" nuclear weapons will only ignite a new arms race and increase the likelihood of war.

Surprised by the congressional rejection, the NNSA and the Bush administration must now decide whether or not to attempt to revive the bill in the fiscal 2006 budget which goes before Congress in January.

» Washington Post: Funds for atomic bomb research cut from spending bill

» Chicago Tribune: Arms control activists hail Bush setback

» Arms Control Association: Arms Control Association applauds lawmakers' move to cut funding for costly and counterproductive nuclear weapons projects

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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