After a brief debate Wednesday, the state Senate voted by a 22-7 tally for a nonbinding resolution "strongly opposing the basing of any nuclear weapon delivery system in Vermont."
Those in favor included 20 Democratic and/or Progressive senators plus Sen. James McNeil (R-Rutland) and Richard Westman (R-Lamoille). The other four Republicans voted "no," plus Sens. Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle) and John Rodgers and Bobby Starr (both D-Essex/Orleans). Sen. Chris Pearson (P-Chittenden) was absent from the floor during the roll call.
The resolution, S.R.5, got a thorough overhaul in the Senate Government Operations Committee before heading to the floor. The original wording repeatedly mentioned the F-35 fighter jet, which the Vermont Air National Guard is scheduled to begin flying from its base at the Burlington International Airport this fall. A group called Citizens Against Nuclear Bombers in Vermont pushed for the resolution over fears that the F-35 is capable of carrying nuclear weaponry.
But the version approved by the Senate barely refers to the F-35 at all. Instead, it describes Vermont's history as "a national leader in opposing the spread of nuclear weapons" and recounts committee testimony describing instances where the military apparently based such weapons in Vermont.
"It's not about airplanes. It's about nuclear weapons systems," lead sponsor Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) said during floor debate. "This resolution is in keeping with our long tradition of being opposed to nuclear weapons."
Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) spoke against the measure. "This is a statement to members of the Vermont National Guard that we don't trust them," Benning said. "Vermonters have always been equipped with the most advanced weapons possible in order to defend our country."
The resolution will be sent to Vermont's three members of Congress and to the U.S. Secretary of Defense. Pollina argued that the measure is not mere window dressing. "There are instances where the military has changed its plans due to local opposition," he said.
A similar resolution is pending before the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee. The House is not expected to take it up this session.
Correction, May 21, 2019: The original version of this story mischaracterized the votes of two senators.