Joe Kennedy, the Democratic congressmen representing Massachusetts’s 4th congressional district, is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a pretty reliable vote against just about anything President Trump wants. So it was more than a little weird to see him cast his lot Republicans and vote against an amendment that would cut spending on low-yield nuclear weapons.
As it turns out, Kennedy didn’t actually mean to vote that way. He accidentally cast a “no” vote when he meant to vote “yes,” and as a result joined a majority made up mostly of Republicans to spend $65 million on outfitting nuclear submarines with so-called “usable” nuclear weapons that the president can deploy. Oops!
Kennedy copped to the accidental vote in a tweet Friday after being confronted on Twitter by Stephen Miles, the director of anti-militarism advocacy group Win Without War, who asked him “why on earth” he would vote with Republicans on the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.
“You’re right. Meant to vote yes — it was an honest mistake on my part,” Kennedy tweeted. “There is no need for these weapons.”
Haha, no big deal, just shrug off the vote on expanded nuclear armament. Everything will be fine. (Miles accepted the explanation, noting “Mistakes happen” and used the opportunity to promote a measure that would restrict the president’s ability to conduct a first-use nuclear strike without congressional authorization.)
In Kennedy’s defense, his vote on the issue meant basically nothing. The amendment, introduced by California Democrat Barbara Lee, was a long shot from the start. Next to no Republicans, who hold a 246-187 majority in the House, were going to agree to move $65 million planned to be used on low-yield nuclear weapons to the Department of Energy’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account used to prevent the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons.
The proposal was shot down 177-241 and the result was going to be the same no matter what vote Kennedy cast; he could have just not shown up at all and the results wouldn’t have changed. But he put his vote on the record and mistakenly placed it in the wrong column, and caught some flak from progressives who started to call into question Kennedy’s progressive bona fides in the process.
Kennedy wasn’t the only Democrat to cross the aisle and vote with Republicans on the amendment, either. A total of 15 Democrats cast a “no” vote—though only Kennedy said his was a mistake.
Oh, and as an aside: low-yield nuclear weapons are bullshit. The suggestion is that they are smaller and less damaging than a normal nuclear weapon and therefore usable in theaters of war. They certainly not as powerful as the biggest bombs in the US’ arsenal, but they are still fucking nuclear weapons. According to the nonprofit Ploughshares Fund, a low-yield nuke still has the explosive force of 1,000 of most powerful conventional weapon in America’s arsenal—and a similar force to the nuclear weapons dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The only thing that low-yield nukes do is lower the threshold for use by making them seem less destructive.
[H/T Eve Peyser]