The Make America Secure Appropriations Act Will Do the Exact Opposite.

Republicans are calling their FY 2018 “minibus” spending bill, which passed on Thursday, the “Make America Secure Appropriations Act.” However, as might not be surprising, it will do exactly the opposite.

The “minibus” contains $1.6 billion for the construction of Trump’s border wall. The border wall will not make us any safer. As Clara Long of Human Rights Watch explains,

This border wall, if built (at U.S. taxpayer expense), will probably have a lot in common with the 600 miles of barriers along the southern border already built under the 2006 Secure Fence Act. The project razed delicate environments, trampled on long-standing property rights, and cut communities in two. It was also expensive and ineffective, not to mention ugly. Every weekend, families separated by the barrier try to share intimacies through the bars while a Border Patrol car or two stands by.

Given the widely acknowledged and growing threat of climate change, cutting $1.3 billion from the non-defense portions of Energy and Water appropriations, including renewable energy research, will make us less safe. And banning the implementation of the National Ocean Policy, which focuses on marine stewardship, will make us less safe.

The bill’s hostility toward nuclear non-proliferation and human rights also make us less safe.

The bill reduced spending on nuclear non-proliferation programs by $106.4 million (5.6 percent) from FY 2017 levels and increased spending on nuclear weapons programs by $993.7 million (10.7 percent).

The US’s mammoth nuclear arsenal is not making us safer. Indeed, earlier this year, 30 Nobel Laureates, a former US Secretary of Defense, and over 3,000 other scientists from 84 countries signed on to a letter calling for a global ban on nuclear weapons.

The letter lays out the risks:

Individual explosions can obliterate cities, radioactive fallout can contaminate regions, and a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse may cause mayhem by frying electrical grids and electronics across a continent. The most horrible hazard is a nuclear-induced winter, in which the fires and smoke from as few as a thousand detonations might darken the atmosphere enough to trigger a global mini ice age with year-round winter-like conditions. This could cause a complete collapse of the global food system and apocalyptic unrest, potentially killing most people on Earth — even if the nuclear war involved only a small fraction of the roughly 14,000 nuclear weapons that today’s nine nuclear powers control…..

Unfortunately, such a war is more likely than one may hope, because it can start by mistake, miscalculation or terrorist provocation. There is a steady stream of accidents and false alarms that could trigger all-out war, and relying on never-ending luck is not a sustainable strategy. Many nuclear powers have larger nuclear arsenals than needed for deterrence, yet prioritize making them more lethal over reducing them and the risk that they get used.

As I like to say, you can only destroy the world so many times.

John Garamendi (CA-03) tried to correct this misplacement of priorities by offering an amendment to shift some money from nuclear programs to non-proliferation.

It failed 180 to 247. One Republican — Justin Amash (MI-03) — voted for it, and 12 Democrats voted against it.

Here are the 12: Jim Cooper (TN-05), Charlie Crist (Fl-13), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Steny Hoyer (MD-05), Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01), Ben Lujan (NM-03), Sean Maloney (NY-18), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Collin Peterson (MN-07), Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09), and Eric Swalwell (CA-15).

Also not making us any more safe? Keeping the Guantanamo Bay prison open, as the “minibus” would do.

Laura Pitter, the Senior U.S. National Security Counsel at Human Rights Watch, explains why keeping Gitmo open, and not releasing prisoners, is the real security threat:

The bottom line is that many of those who have been detained in Guantánamo for the last 15 years were never involved in terrorism to begin with. The reported number of those who have become involved in terrorism after their release is low — and even that number is contested. The greatest danger that Guantánamo poses to U.S. national security is its potency as a symbol of injustice — the product of holding hundreds of people for years without due process and its association with rendition and torture — as it often feeds into terrorist propaganda.

Jerry Nadler (NY-10) offered an amendment to strike the provisions of the bill that ban the release or transfer detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay to secure facilities in the United States and ban funding to construct, acquire, or modify domestic facilities to host these relocated detainees.

It failed 172 to to 252. Three Republicans voted for it: Justin Amash (MI-03), Jimmy Duncan (TN-02), and Mark Sanford (SC-01). And 22 Democrats voted against it.

Here are the 22:

Pete Aguilar (CA-31)

Tony Cardenas (CA-29)

Lou Correa (CA-46)

Charlie Crist (FL-13)

Henry Cuellar (TX-28)

Ruben Gallego (AZ-07)

Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15)

Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05)

Gene Green (TX-29)

Al Lawson (FL-05)

Dan Lipinski (IL-03)

Carolyn Maloney (NY-12)

Sean Maloney (NY-18)

Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01)

Collin Peterson (MN-07)

Jacky Rosen (NV-03)

Raul Ruiz (CA-36)

Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02)

Terri Sewell (AL-07)

Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)

Albio Sires (NJ-08)

Tom Suozzi (NY-03)

Oh, and the final vote on the appropriations bill itself? The “minibus” bill passed 235 to 192, with 5 defections on each side. The Democrats who voted for it were Sanford Bishop (GA-02), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09). Shame on all of them.

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Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.

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Jonathan Cohn

Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.

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