Reading Room

Bad Day for Nuclear Safety and Democracy

When the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) finished "marking up" the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with a series of "party line" votes, the result was a mess. In fact, the NDAA was so controversial that it quickly attracted some 237 amendments.

The Republican majority pledged an open and free debate, but that is not what we see happening. Instead, procedural sleight of hand is being employed to narrow the choices available to members of Congress and to forestall needed debate.

Prospective amendments were submitted to the Committee on Rules. This committee determines which amendments can be voted upon. Unfortunately the Rules Committee prevented key amendments to the House NDAA from reaching the floor, preemptively barring members of Congress from voting on them.

A case in point is the amendment to restore nuclear safety requirements that had been gutted when the HASC marked up the NDAA. The amendment was offered in a timely manner by three respected Democrats, the Bay Area's Rep. George Miller, Rep. Pete Visclosky (Ranking Member, House Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee), and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (Ranking Member, House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee). It was neither out of order nor duplicative of any other amendment offered. It dealt with an important issue, literally one of life or death. More than 30 non-governmental organizations, labor groups and current and former workers at all of the major nuclear weapons facilities publically supported the amendment. Yet, it was disallowed by the Rules Committee.

Similarly, an important amendment by our local Congressman, John Garamendi (D-Livermore), on the question of authorizing money for a missile defense site on the East Coast was disallowed by the Rules Committee. Put simply, his amendment was about whether to spend money we don't have on a technology that doesn't work in order to defend against a threat that doesn't exist (long-range ballistic missiles from Iran, a country that doesn't have 'em).

And, the Rules Committee refused a straightforward amendment by Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Hank Johnson (D-GA) to strike the $100 million that was put in the NDAA for a new plutonium bomb plant that the administration had delayed for 5-years on the grounds it was unnecessary and the Republican majority over on the appropriations side of the House had not wanted either. And, Reps. Jared Polis and Loretta Sanchez likewise had their amendment to cut the extra $324 million for nuclear weapons activities above the administration's request pulled by the Rules committee. These and other key amendments died by the knife wielded by the Rules Committee.

Astute readers of Tri-Valley CAREs' analyses may recognize that all four of the amendments we wrote about on Wednesday were among those murdered in committee. True. Not one of them was allowed on the floor for an up or down vote. Where is the "small d" democracy in that?

There are numerous, unacceptable "poison pills" left in the NDAA that the House of Representatives is debating today and is scheduled to vote on in toto tomorrow, May 18. Our attention must turn to the Senate. Senators of both parties have a solemn obligation to counter these provisions in the Senate NDAA, which would then go to conference committee for a final outcome. Are they up to the challenge? We will keep you posted.

Click here to read Tri-Valley CAREs Press Release from today

Click here for George Miller's press release with a link to his floor statement

Click here to read the Administration's Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 4310 � National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013