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When it comes to nukes, it’s complicated

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Santa Fe City Council is weighing in on national policy again, this time on

nuclear weapons. A resolution proposed by Councilor Renee Villarreal would put Santa Fe on record in support of federal legislation aimed at trying to bar the president from launching a nuclear weapons first strike without Congressional authorization.

The resolution, if approved, would also would stand against “the administration’s misguided agenda in regards to nuclear weapons, including greatly expanding the nuclear weapons arsenal of the United States.”

We’ll not engage here in the long-running debate over the value of City Council resolutions on national or international affairs. And we get it that President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on nukes, including his reaction to threatening nuclear weapons and missile tests by North Korea – “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” – has often been frightening.

But Councilor Mike Harris is right in raising questions about whether the Trump administration should be singled out on these issues. An ongoing, hugely expensive program to modernize and upgrade the American nuclear arsenal started years ago, long before Trump was even running for president. The weapons spending is part of President Barack Obama’s deal with Republicans in Congress over ratification of the New START Treaty on arms control that Obama signed in 2011.

Here’s what Jay Coghlan of the watchdog Nuclear Watch New Mexico group said about the Obama administration’s last budget plan: “Recall that President Obama received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Instead, the last budget of his administrations sets an all-time record for funding Department of Energy nuclear weapons programs. What this means at Los Alamos is that the lab’s future is being increasingly tied to expanded production of plutonium pits, the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons.”

If the City Council wants to discuss nukes and take aim at weapons expansion, there’s more than one president to talk about.