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Congress eliminates funding for nuclear weapons tests

As 2020 came to a close, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives struggled to come to agreement on a pandemic relief bill for Americans or even keep the government from shutting down. But the House and Senate did manage to agree—with veto-proof bipartisan support—upon a $740.5 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which they sent to the President for his signature. That is $84 million per hour in military spending, 24/7, year-round.

PSR and our allied groups could claim one significant victory in the NDAA that ultimately emerged from the deliberations in the House-Senate Conference Committee. The Senate version of the NDAA had included $10 million in taxpayer funds to prepare the Nevada test site to resume nuclear weapons tests after a 28 year hiatus, whereas the House version prohibited such funding. But the House-Senate conferees removed that from the compromise bill that emerged from conference.

More than any other member of Congress, the decision to de-fund nuclear weapons testing can be attributed to Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the Ranking Member of Senate Armed Services Committee. If you live in Rhode Island, consider thanking Reed by calling up his DC office (202) 224-4642. PSR also thanks House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, of Washington state, for this outcome.

And thanks to you, PSR members, who weighed in on this decision, including Rhode Islanders who called Reed’s office and nearly 1,000 PSR members around the country who sent emails to Reed. Back on November 12, PSR sent a letter about the nuclear testing debate to Sen. Reed, Rep. Smith, as well as Senate Armed Services Chair James Inhofe (OK) and House Armed Services Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (TX). In this letter, available here as a pdf, PSR outlined the case against nuclear weapons tests from the health perspective.  In 2021 and beyond, PSR will be renewing our work to secure United States ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which the United States signed in 1996 but has never ratified.