It appears that several Republicans — including Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) — have been hinting that they will vote for the New START treaty, if only the Obama Administration were to add another $10 billion to its $80 billion request over 10 years for the nuclear weapons complex.
(In case you were wondering, the $80 billion figure comes from the 1251 report, rather than the budget submission. Well, I wondered. )
The argument is that $80 billion might not be enough to cover potentially significant cost over-runs associated with new facilities. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) told Reuters, “I think there’s about a $10 billion gap” between what the administration has proposed and what is needed.
Now, I am a little confused.
Wasn’t Bob Corker the guy who voted against the extension of unemployment benefits because, he said, “I cannot in good conscience continue voting for bills that aren’t paid for.” And the guy who, again citing the deficit, called the Stimulus Bill “a huge mistake”? Yeah, that guy.
So where is that squeaky clean conscience when it comes to the New START treaty? Another $10 billion? With a B? What’s the plan to pay for that? Could Corker’s sudden concern about a funding gap have anything to do with the Uranium Processing Facility planned for the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which will cost between $1.4-3.5 billion?
Here is a suggestion: By all means, give Senator Corker his extra $10 billion — but let’s pay for it. After all, we want poor Bob to have a clean conscience.
The easiest thing to do, of course, would be to levy a “stockpile modernization” tax — say a fraction of a percent on every can of beer — to cover the cost of the facilities and help people feel good about ensuring the US nuclear arsenal remains second-to-none while knocking back a couple of cold ones. But, somehow, I think Bob Corker would rather unilaterally disarm the United States before voting for a tax increase. (Indeed, I can imagine a rather amusing list of things Bob Corker would rather do than vote for a tax increase.)
Which leaves us the other tried and true method of raising revenue: raiding other funds!
Take The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — the so-called “Stimulus Bill” that Corker described as “a huge mistake.”
How about this: Let’s spend the whole $90 billion that Corker wants, but let the first ten billion on infrastructure modernization come out of stimulus funds, on a state-by-state basis. So, for example, Tennessee — which will receive $4.2 billion in stimulus funding, “more money than it can possibly spend,” according to Senator Corker — might shift a billion or so of that money burning a hole in its metaphorical pocket toward the Uranium Processing Facility, rather than getting in line for another handout from Uncle Sugar.
What? You don’t think Senator Corker would go for that? Whatever gives you that idea?