The House Rules Committee on Monday decided not to write rules of debate for a package of spending bills that includes 2021 funding for Department of Energy nuclear weapons programs, but planned to pick up the action on Tuesday.

That would keep the lower chamber on pace to approve both the Energy and Water bill that funds Department of Energy programs this week. There were 60 amendments pending to the Energy and Water portion of the bill alone, including a pair by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) aimed at preserving Pentagon input into the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) annual budget request, and slightly boosting NNSA nuclear-weapons programs at the expense of nuclear nonproliferation and cleanup.

The semiautonomous DoE agency controls nuclear warhead and bomb development, maintenance, and modernization.

Both amendments from Turner, the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, will have to make it out of the Democrat-controlled Rules Committee to even get a vote on the House floor later this week.

The first Turner amendment would erase the bill’s proposed prohibition against the joint Pentagon-DOE Nuclear Weapons Council from providing input about the NNSA annual budget request. The House Appropriations energy and water development subcommittee drafted that provision, which the full Committee approved two weeks ago on a party-line vote. 

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), ranking member of the subcommittee, objected to the provision, which Democrats wrote into the bill after the Senate Armed Services Committee attempted to give the Nuclear Weapons Council veto power over the NNSA’s annual budget request.

The second Turner amendment would marginally boost funding for NNSA’s Weapons Activities Account by $85 million to just under $13.75 million, compared with more than $13.65 million already approved by the Committee. 

That modest increase would benefit the following NNSA nuclear weapons projects, which would not still not receive the White House’s requested 2021 budget, under Turner’s proposed funding amendment:

  • Construction of the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The Committee proposed $600 million for 2021, down $145 million from 2020 and $150 million below the request. The facility will be the NNSA’s hub for manufacturing nuclear-weapon secondary stages, starting later this decade.
  • Development of the Lithium Process Facility at Y-12. The Committee recommended no funds for that activity in 2021, which is down $32 million from 202, and about $1140 million below the request. The NNSA needs lithium to create tritium, which boost the efficiency, and therefore the destructive power, of nuclear weapons.
  • Plutonium operations at the Los Alamos National National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., where NNSA plans to start casting plutonium pits this decade and next. Los Alamos operations would get $500 million under the House bill, which is $312 million above the 2020 budget but $110 million less than requested. Savannah River operations would get $65 million, a big drop from $345 million or so in 2020, and nearly $135 million below the request.
  • Early development of the proposed W93 submarine-launched, intercontinental ballistic-missile warhead. The NNSA wanted $53 million for this in 2020, but the House Appropriations Committee zeroed out the request in its roughly $49.5 billion Energy and Water appropriations bill.

Turner’s amendment does not say how much of an increase each of those programs would get.

Meanwhile, to offset his proposed $85 million boost for NNSA, Turner proposed cutting the same amount from other programs, including: 

  • $10 million from FUSRAP’s nuclear cleanup budgets.
  • $63 million from NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account, which under the House bill would get $209 million more than requested and $75 million more than the 2020 budget.
  • $7 million from the Defense Environmental Cleanup at DoE’s Environmental Management Office. That is the office’s single largest account, and it funds cleanup of shuttered Manhattan Project and Cold War nuclear-weapons production sites.
  • $5 million from the Environmental Management’s office’s Other Defense Activities account.