Heather Hurlburt Quoted in Politico on a GOP Memo that Urges Delay to START Vote

November 8, 2010

By Laura Rozen

8 November 2010 | Politico

President Barack Obama said last week before he left for Asia that one of his administration’s top priorities for the lame-duck Congress would be trying to get a Senate ratification vote of the new START treaty.

But a Nov. 5 memo from the Republican Policy Committee to Senate GOP staffers asserts that “it’s not time for the Senate to vote” on the U.S.-Russian strategic arms control treaty.

“Although the treaty may very well preserve the ability of the United States to modernize its nuclear forces, it in no way answers the question of whether the Obama Administration is sufficiently committed to that end,” RPC national security staffer Michael Stransky wrote in the memo, which reviews the points in a State Department fact sheet on new START that was distributed last week.

While agreeing that the Obama administration would allocate an additional $10 billion in new funds to modernize the U.S. nuclear complex, the memo says the $80 billion allocation “actually raises the question of whether this Administration is committed to modernizing the nuclear weapons complex.”

Similarly, the RPC memo says while the State Department fact sheet correctly asserts that the “treaty provides no constraints on deploying the most effective missile defenses possible,” it nevertheless “does not answer any questions about the Administration’s actual commitment to developing and deploying a robust missile defense system.”

“With this world, and so many substantive concerns pertaining to the treaty still outstanding, it cannot be the case that the time is now for the Senate to vote on New START,” Stransky concludes.

Some observers interpreted the memo as more about tactical positioning than signaling an absolute GOP intention to block a Senate ratification vote by the end of the year.

“I read it as a tactical move to extract more concessions,” from the administration, the Center for American Progress’ Russia expert Samuel Charap told POLITICO.

The memo “actually doesn’t raise any issues on the treaty but on related issues which are GOP priorities,” such as missile defense, said Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the National Security Network. “I read it as an effort to raise the price of the treaty by linking to issues that properly should be treated separately.”

“This is entirely predictable,” a Democratic nonproliferation hand said on condition of anonymity Tuesday. “The Republicans complained in September that they did not have enough time to consider the Treaty. So Majority Leader [Harry] Reid deferred to the lame duck session. Now they are complaining they don’t have enough time in the lame duck session.”

“If Republicans believe this Treaty is harmful to U.S. national security interests, they would welcome a vote whereby they can vote against the Treaty,” he continued. “They have the votes to do so. Their preference to delay and obstruct is clear evidence they recognize they don’t have a winning hand here.”

An RPC spokesman said the administration still has more questions to answer from the Senate on START.

For the original piece, click here.

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