Republicans on the Hill have been trying hard this term for the title of "Most Obstructive Minority Ever" - but even many GOP stalwarts saw the sense of not letting the neocons proceed with the first step in their multi-billion plans to create a new arms race with Russia.
George Bush's plans to establish a European missile defence system suffered a big setback today when a Congressional committee slashed most of the funding. The House appropriations committee cut $139m (£69.5m) from the $310m the Bush administration wants for preparatory work on the missile project in Europe.Both Russia and Congress should continue their opposition. As I wrote recently, for the neocon think-tankers who have been pushing these plans in the White House the European bases are only a first step. The full plan involves trying to deceive Congress and the American people with word-play in order to justify the militarization of space - which would require that the US unilaterally withdraw from yet another arms control treaty. At that point, the worst of the Cold War arms race, MAD, and a Doomsday Clock ticking its way back towards midnight would all be inevitable.
It approved funds for a radar system in the Czech Republic but cut the $139m Mr Bush requested to establish a missile interception system in Poland, the most controversial part of the defence system. In addition, the committee cut another $159m from US-based parts of the missile plan.
...Republicans on the committee joined the Democrats in voting for the bill. Mr Murtha said Congress was trying to change the direction of the defence department across the board, not just on missile defence.
The Senate is not scheduled to vote on the budget until after the August recess. While the Democrats and Republicans are divided over proposals to withhold war spending for Iraq, legislators from both parties have expressed scepticism about the European missile defence proposal.
...Bill Young, the most senior Republican on the committee, said: "I don't think this bill is subject to a veto." He said it had been designed for quick passage. Even if Mr Bush was to block it, the extent of Congressional opposition will leave doubts over the European missile defence system, signalling that if the Democrats take the White House next year, the plan would be scrapped. The congressional opposition will also embolden Russia to maintain its opposition.
These Republicans on the House appropriations committee just helped the world turn towards a safer track, a little, and are to be applauded.