- The Washington Times - Friday, November 26, 2004

Who would have believed that President Bush would have to allocate some of the political capital he accumulated from his 3.5 million-vote, 31-state re-election victory to change the mind of a single seven-term House Republican who has, virtually single-handedly, blocked the will of the White House, 95 percent of his House Republican colleagues and 98 percent of Senate Republicans? Yet that is precisely what Ohio Republican Rep. David Hobson is bent on doing. In fact, he has managed to prevail, so far, by exercising his will in the $388 billion omnibus spending bill adopted last Saturday. The fact that the issue at hand directly affects America’s long-term nuclear-weapons policy makes Mr. Hobson’s stand all the more unacceptable.

The policy Mr. Hobson has been pursuing is identical to the policy vigorously advocated in recent years by Ted Kennedy. It is also the nuclear-weapons policy supported by 2008 Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Because congressional and presidential elections are held to decide such matters, it is the will of the president and the overwhelming majority of Congress’ majority party that must prevail, not Mr. Hobson’s.

The issue involves research programs conducted by the Energy Department to evaluate the feasibility and desirability of developing two small nuclear warheads. One is the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator weapon, commonly known as a “bunker buster,” which could be useful in destroying deeply buried weapons of mass destruction developed and/or hidden by rogue regimes or their stateless terrorist allies. The other program, the Stockpile Services Advanced Concepts Initiative, includes researching extremely low-yield nuclear weapons, commonly known as “mini-nukes,” whose destructive power would be less than five kilotons.

It is important to emphasize that both are research programs. No decision has been made to deploy either weapon, and congressional approval would be necessary before any such deployment could take place.

Both research programs, which, if they were properly funded (which they have not been), could be completed in a few years. They have been debated and authorized since the Bush administration first began exploring the idea of adding them to the nation’s nuclear arsenal in 2002. In May, 207 of 218 House Republicans voted to authorize the programs. In June, 50 of 51 Republican senators voted to defeat Mr. Kennedy’s amendment that would have prohibited the use of $36 million to research the programs.

Unfortunately, Mr. Hobson’s energy and water appropriations subcommittee deleted the research funding and redirected the money elsewhere. It was this decision that found its way into the omnibus spending bill. This wrong decision needs to be reversed promptly so that research can be resumed.

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