11 May 2011 By Kate Brannen - DefenseNews
The House Armed Services Committee voted on a number of amendments to the 2012 defense authorization bill that if they became law would limit the Obama administration's ability to implement a nuclear-arms reduction treaty with Moscow.
On all four amendments related to the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the committee voted straight down party lines 35 to 26, with Republicans voting for amendments that would restrict implementation of the treaty. The defense bill will next move to the House floor with the amendments included.
The White House signed the New START treaty with Russia in April 2010.
During the lame duck session following November congressional elections, the Senate ratified the treaty in December and it went into effect in February.
The treaty restricts the number of nuclear weapons each country may have and puts into place a new inspection regime. It would reduce the number of deployed nuclear warheads for the United States and Russia to 1,550 each.
Each now has about 2,200 deployed warheads and thousands more in storage or awaiting disposal.
Opponents expressed concern that the treaty would weaken the United States' nuclear weapons capabilities while not necessarily reducing Russia's inventory.
One of the amendments that passed would limit the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy from spending any available funding from 2012 through 2017 on retiring a covered nuclear system as required by the treaty. The legislation does include a provision, which says the secretaries of defense and energy may waive this limitation if they provide certain documentation to Congress.
Advocates of the treaty said the House legislation would tie the president's hands when it comes to making foreign policy decisions. They argued the treaty must move forward so that the United States can resume inspection of Russian nuclear weapons sites.