US House cuts nuclear weapons, boosts waste funds
The House voted 377-26 to clear the measure, one of 13 Congress must pass each year to fund the federal government. But it will likely face stiff opposition from the Senate, which has taken a different approach in its companion bill.
Overall the bill would be an increase of around $942 million over the current fiscal year, but would slash more than $326 million from President George W. Bush's budget request for the federal agency which oversees nuclear weapons programs.
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the House have expressed skepticism about whether the current U.S. nuclear stockpile is appropriate in a world without a superpower foe.
The bill would also cut all but $5 million of the $15.5 million Bush had sought to study new, smaller nuclear weapons that could be used to destroy deeply buried bunkers. Critics say they fear the move could spark a new nuclear arms race.
It would also substantially boost spending on the controversial Yucca Mountain project, providing $174 million more than Bush had requested and $308 million more than Congress approved this fiscal year.
The plan aims to site the first permanent U.S. nuclear waste repository in the desert northwest of Las Vegas and is bitterly opposed by Nevada, whose senators have generally succeeded in limiting its funding in past years.
The Senate's bill would cut funding for nuclear waste disposal by $166 million below Bush's request and $32 million below current spending levels. But it would give Bush all of the money he wanted for U.S. nuclear weapons programs.
The House also adopted an amendment to stop all transfers of nuclear technology to North Korea, a move that would effectively block the completion of two nuclear reactors being built there by a U.S.-led international consortium.
It has previously approved the same language as part of a separate energy policy bill. The project is considered likely to be suspended soon anyway because of tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons program, diplomats have said.