Can Money Buy Votes?

, | September 30, 2010, 5:24 pm EDT
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Yesterday, the Senate adjourned until after the election. Before everyone went home, Congress passed a spending bill, called a Continuing Resolution (CR), that would keep the government running through December 3. Normally, Continuing Resolutions merely set spending at the previous year’s levels. Whatever the budget was for last year, that’s the budget this year too, at least for as long as the CR is in effect. The reason is that, if exceptions were carved out for various programs, it would open the proverbial can of worms and everyone would want more money.

This year, however, Congress threw caution to the wind by including in the CR the first portion of the FY11 $624 million increase that the administration has sought for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons budget. That gives the weapons programs an extra $100 million or so over the next two months. While the administration states it wanted this increase in any case, the extra money is clearly in response to statements from some Republican senators that their support for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is contingent upon increased funding for nuclear weapons.

In exchange for the extra money, Republicans should respond in kind by agreeing to vote for New START during a lame duck session. While it seems no such deal was made, it’s worth noting that the remainder of the increase could go away – and stay away – if the Senate doesn’t sign off on New START.

We do not know what specific programs were increased in the CR, but we can make a very educated guess based on the Senate mark-up of the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill: see our factsheet (written before the CR was passed) of the Administration’s proposed spending increases for nuclear weapons programs and the Senate’s response.

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