LegislationWhile the national labs may decide that a nuclear test is needed, and the President may announce that the US will resume testing, it is Congress that makes the final determination on if and when testing will resume. This is because Congress controls the appropriations process that determines the funding levels for the Department of Energy, including the National Nuclear Security Administration. If the Congress determines that a return to testing is not appropriate, for whatever reason, it can elect to prohibit the NNSA from spending any funds on nuclear weapons testing.
There have been several bills recently introduced that explicitly require congressional approval of a return to testing, beyond the fiscal duties detailed above. In addition, Reps. John Spratt (D-SC) and Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) have introduced amendments to the Defense Authorization bill in both 2003 and 2004 that would require Congressional notification of an intent to test many months before the test would occur. These amendments were defeated, on largely party line votes, on the grounds that Congress's fiscal responsibilities constitute sufficient notification time.