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Senate Democrats say Obama in 'major retreat' over nonproliferation

Democrats split with Mr. Obama over nonproliferation budget.
Democrats split with Mr. Obama over nonproliferation budget.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

No less than 26 senators are calling on the Obama administration to drop plans to cut the nuclear nonproliferation Department of Energy budget by $400 million in a letter published Wednesday. Preventing nuclear proliferation was a top priority for the administration in 2009, however, in a letter to Mr. Obama, the senators said his current budget marked a “major retreat” on the issue.

Twenty-two Democrats, two Republicans and two Independents are not only condemning the president’s shift of priorities regarding nuclear proliferation in his 2015 budget, but are calling for an increase in the 2016 DOE nonproliferation budget.

Increasingly, Mr. Obama is bypassing Congress and the Senate in favor of issuing executive orders on a plethora of foreign and domestic issues like illegal immigration and the new Iraqi war.

Exposing a dramatic rift in the Democratic Party-controlled Senate, Dianne Feinstein of California and Jeff Merkley of Oregon are leading the charge against nonproliferation budget cuts planned by the administration.

“The recent spate of terrorism in Iraq, Pakistan, and Kenya is a harrowing reminder of the importance of ensuring that terrorist groups and rogue states cannot get their hands on the world's most dangerous weapons and materials,” the senators wrote.

The split between Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama arose when the 2015 Senate Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water bill increased spending on several nonproliferation programs, including the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, by $219 million more than the president’s budget proposal. Feinstein is chairwoman of the Energy and Water appropriations subcommittee.

President Obama’s vow to use Executive Orders to make and runs around Congress on highly charged political issues like illegal immigration and mission creep in Iraq has proved more politically troubling for Democrats than Republicans.

With Mr. Obama’s approval ratings in the tank, key Democrats in the House of Representatives are wondering why the president is not talking to them either. With most polls showing Republicans poised to pick up seats in the House and Senate, the president has been accused by Democrats of not communicating with members of his own political party.

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