The House Armed Services Committee early Thursday approved its version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act after about 18 hours of committee debate.

The House committee’s annual defense policy bill, now headed to the House floor, authorizes about $15.8 billion for the active nuclear weapons programs managed by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). That is 4% less funding than sought, but an increase of about 4.5%, compared with the 2019 budget.

The House committee’s bill passed on a technically party line, but mostly partisan, vote of 33-24. Two Republicans broke ranks: Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.).

Lawmakers fiercely debated nuclear weapons policy in the marathon markup, with most of the attention and acrimony given to a weapon that is relatively small in terms of cost and yield, but of out sized political and strategic importance: the W76-2 low-yield, submarine-launched, ballistic missile warhead.

House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) made it his mission last year, before his party won control of the House, to ban the weapon, which the NNSA has already started building. The NDAA just approved by the committee would, if signed, do just that — at least temporarily. The committee’s bill prohibits the Navy from deploying the weapon in fiscal year 2020.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) tried twice and failed during the protracted markup to reverse Smith’s decision, which Democrats backed to a person. NNSA got $65 million for the W76-2 for fiscal year 2019 and sought $10 million more for 2020, which the House committee’s NDAA bill did not authorize.

Two Cheney amendments to restore W76-2 failed on party line votes after an hour of charged debate, in which Cheney repeatedly said that failure to approve the low-yield weapon was tantamount to “universal disarmament” by the U.S.

In a conventional conflict involving Russia, the White House said in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the U.S. can only stop Moscow from using low-yield weapons to start or win a conflict by presenting an American low-yield nuke as a potential counterstrike. Cheney has used the same argument to support her amendment.

She and committee ranking member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) again and again appealed to freshmen Democrats to seek, if they had not already, classified briefings on how long U.S. bombers take to deliver existing low-yield nuclear cruise missiles or bombs, compared with how fast a submarine could deliver a similarly powerful weapon with a cruise missile.

Smith and his Democrats rejected those appeals, saying as they always have that the threat of an instant, global-range, high-yield U.S. counter strike would weigh too heavily in Russia’s calculations for that nation to attempt, for example, to delete a U.S. aircraft carrier with a low-yield nuke.

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), ranking member of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said that putting a low-yield weapon on a ballistic missile submarine needlessly imperiled the most secure leg of the U.S. nuclear triad, because launching a low-yield nuclear weapon from a submarine would mark that sub, and its remaining high-yield weapons, for adversary attack submarines.

One of Cheney’s W76-2 amendments, which would have removed language prohibiting deployment of the weapon by the Navy, failed 30-26. One Democrat did not vote. A second amendment, which would have allowed deployment, and authorized some $25 million in NNSA and Navy spending on the weapon, failed 29-26, with two Democrats absent.

A similar amendment from Cheney failed on a party line vote last week in the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

As the House Armed Services Committee began debate on its the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Wednesday morning, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which passed its version of the bill in May, at last revealed the text of its version of that measure, which authorizes nearly all the spending the White House sought for nuclear weapons programs managed by NNSA and the Pentagon. The Senate committee’s bill authorizes about $16.5 billion for the NNSA.

Neither the House nor the Senate had scheduled floor votes for their respective Armed Services Committees’ NDAAs at deadline for Defense Daily. If the bills pass their respective chambers, then Senate Armed Services leadership will have to convince their House counterparts to go along with the fund-them-both approach in the Senate committee’s bill.

The Senate Armed Services Committee marked up its NDAA in closed session in May, keeping the bill text under wraps until just before the House Armed Services Committee started marking up its bill Wednesday.

Broadly, the House committee’s bill authorizes less spending than requested for Pentagon procurement of next-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles, and less funding than sought for NNSA production of the warheads and warhead-cores of those weapons. The House committee’s bill also bans deployment of W76-2 and forbids increased funding to keep the megaton-class B83 nuclear gravity in war-ready shape into the 2020s.

The Senate bill authorizes all nuclear modernization funding requested by the Pentagon and NNSA.