Senate Panel Bans Clusterbombs; Congress Blocks Bomb Plants
July 5, 2007
Friends Committee on National Legislation
A key Senate committee has approved legislation to ban exports of US cluster bombs, a weapon with a particularly deadly record of killing and maiming civilians. The legislation must still be approved by the full Senate and reconciled with a House version. Meanwhile, Congress has refused to provide funding for the Bush administration's proposal to build a new nuclear weapons facility.
Senate Panel Passes Far-Reaching
Export Restrictions on Cluster Munitions
Friends Committee on National Legislation
ACTION ALERT: You can help by ensuring that your senators and representative are cosponsors of the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007.
WASHINGTON (July 2, 2007) — The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved legislation that would effectively ban the US from exporting cluster bombs, a weapon with a particularly deadly record of killing and maiming civilians both during and after an attack. We at FCNL will be lobbying to ensure that this provision remains in the bill when it is approved by the full Senate and is included in the final legislation that is sent to the president.
Recognizing that US-made cluster bombs have been deployed in civilian areas of more than three countries in the last 15 years, Senators Diane Feinstein (CA) and Patrick Leahy (VT) worked to attach a provision limiting the export of cluster bombs to the fiscal year 2008 (FY08) State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 28.
The legislation bars the US from agreeing to the sale or transfer or cluster bombs, unless:
* The cluster bombs have a failure rate of 1 percent or less
* The sale or transfer agreement specifies that the cluster bombs will be used only against clearly defined military targets and not where civilians are known to be present.
In effect, given the type of cluster munitions in the US stockpile, this amendment would bar the export of essentially all US cluster bombs.
What is a Cluster Munition?
A cluster bomb consists of a canister designed to open in mid-air and disperse smaller submunitions, often referred to as bomblets. Cluster bombs are designed to kill every living creature within a specific area that is often as large as four football fields. Cluster bomblets are deadly both during and after conflict.
Residents of cluster-affected regions often live in fear and must move with caution along paths between villages and must take care to not disturb trees which often hide bomblets. The U.S has exported cluster munitions to at least 27 countries. Often these transfers are made with US tax dollars and at taxpayers’ expense.
Next Step: Lobby for Full Senate Approval
The Senate panel’s support is a clear victory for those urging the US to ban these hideous weapons. However, much work remains to ensure that the provision survives the legislative process. Numerous hurdles stand between the provision on cluster munitions and final passage by Congress and the bill’s signing by the president.
The State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations bill will now go to the Senate floor for consideration in late July or September. This provision could be removed from the bill while it is on the floor. Advocates should encourage their senators to block any such efforts.
Once the bill passes the Senate, differing Senate and House versions of the bill must be reconciled by what is known as a conference committee. Since the House version of the bill (H.R. 2764) does not contain the provision on cluster munitions, members of the House negotiating team need to be convinced to include this provision in the final bill to be sent to the president.
Even if the bill is eventually signed by the president, the provisions are only in effect for FY08 and should be considered an incremental step toward further controls. Further work needs to be done to encourage the United States to ban these weapons. The passage of export restrictions is the first step. Next, restricts need to be put on the use of cluster bombs by the US Armed Forces. The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007 (S. 549) will do just that. Please encourage your senator to cosponsor this life- saving legislation by clicking here: http://capwiz.com/fconl/issues/alert/?alertid=9396921&type=CO
Successes: Congress Stops New Bomb Plant
WASHINGTON (July 2, 2007) — Good news. Your messages have worked. Congress has refused to provide any funding for the Bush administration' s proposal to build a new nuclear weapons facility to be located in one of six states. FCNL worked with people like you around the country to oppose this new facility. Not one of the relevant congressional committees that considered the bomb plant gave the plan one dollar to move forward. Thanks for all of your hard work on FCNL's "Can the New Bomb Plant" campaign!
But the administration remains committed to its plan to develop and build new nuclear weapons, returning our nation’s production capacity of nuclear weapons to Cold War levels and developing the first new nuclear warhead in nearly two decades.
House Cuts Nuclear Weapons Budget
At the beginning of June, the House Appropriations Committee cut the nuclear weapons budget proposed by the Bush Administration by $630 million and increased support for nuclear non-proliferation programs by nearly $1 billion.
The House Appropriations Committee also declined to give the administration any money for what would have been the first new nuclear weapon in two decades, the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). ( PDF)
Senate Keeps New Nukes Alive
The Senate Appropriations Committee, however, decided in late June to allocate $66 million for RRW. The differences between the House and the Senate appropriations will be resolved in conference committee.
The time to influence Congress’ decision on RRW is now. Contact your member and tell him or her to support the House’s rejection of RRW.
• The Reliable Replacement Warhead: Another Unneeded Nuclear Weapon ( PDF)
• Complex 2030: The New Nuclear Weapons Complex ( PDF)
• Seventy-Four Religious Organizations Oppose New Weapons Plant ( PDF)
• Still in the Shadow of Nuclear Weapons. ( PDF)
• Mushroom-Clouded Thinking, by FCNL Legislative Assistant Devin Helfich (TomPaine.com)