New START Headed for a Vote

December 20, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a motion on Sunday night that paves the way for a cloture vote on New START on Tuesday.  Senators are now entering their sixth day of debate on the treaty.  Critics have proposed 42 amendments – seven times the norm – many of which propose amending the text of the treaty, a step which the Senate has never taken on an arms control treaty and which it would not accept from its Russian counterpart.  New START has been thoroughly vetted and now debated for as long as START I and longer than START II and the Moscow Treaty combined.  It is time for senators to do what is right for America’s national security and ratify this treaty.

Choice is clear: consensus national security policies or political gamesmanship.  In his weekly address this weekend, President Obama reviewed the support that lifts the treaty above partisanship: “Ratifying a treaty like START isn’t about winning a victory for an administration or a political party. It’s about the safety and security of the United States of America. That’s why this treaty is supported by both Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. That’s why it’s supported by every living Republican Secretary of State, our NATO allies and the leadership of the United States military. Indeed, the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hoss Cartwright, said this week that the military needs this treaty, and they need it badly. And that’s why every President since Ronald Reagan has pursued a treaty like START, and every one that has been reviewed by the Senate has passed with strong bipartisan support… It’s time to remember the old saying that politics stops at the water’s edge. That saying was coined by a Republican Senator, Arthur Vandenberg, who partnered with a Democratic President, Harry Truman, to pass landmark national security measures at the dawn of the Cold War.”

New START has the unanimous support of America’s military leadership.  On Friday our NATO allies weighed in with their strong endorsement.  Just this weekend, editorial boards in Illinois and Wyoming urged Republican senators Mark Kirk, John Barrasso and Mike Enzi to listen to the advice of the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces and ratify New START.  And 82 percent of the American public agrees.  [Barack Obama, 12/18/10. 18 European Foreign Ministers, 12/17/10. Casper Star Tribune, 12/17/10. Chicago Tribune, 12/19/10. CBS poll, 12/3/10]

Both parties agree the votes are there.  The Hill reports, “[Sen. Dick] Lugar (R-Ind.) has said all along that he believes at least nine Republicans will vote to ratify the treaty in the end – giving Democrats the 67 votes they need… ‘Several Republicans will support it, and I join the chairman in believing that there are the votes there. The problem is really getting to that final vote,’ Lugar said on ABC’s ‘This Week.’” And the Washington Times reports, “Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said Sunday that Senate Democrats have enough votes during the lame-duck session to pass the Obama administration’s new nuclear arms treaty with Russia. ‘I think we do’ have the 67 votes, or two-thirds majority, Mr. Durbin said on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. later backed that claim on ‘Meet the Press.’ ‘I believe we do’ have the votes, he said in a pre-taped interview.”  [Sen. Lugar, via the Hill, 12/11/10. Sen. Durbin and Vice President Biden, via the Washington Times, 12/19/10]

“You either want to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists, or you don’t.”  Treaty opponents continue to offer “killer” amendments that would require the treaty be renegotiated with the Russians.  No arms control treaty – preamble or otherwise – has ever been amended from the Senate floor.  Forty-two amendments have been offered thus far, far above the six to ten typical of past arms control treaties.  As Sen. Kerry explained over the weekend, “We have now spent five days having a very good debate on New START and proposed amendments. That is as much time as the Senate spent on START I, and more than it spent on START II and the Moscow Treaty combined, but we are looking forward to continuing the debate this week.”  “As we move ahead, I look forward to continuing to debate amendments. But soon this will come down to a simple choice: you either want to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists, or you don’t,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said over the weekend. [John Kerry, via The Cable, 12/19/10. Harry Reid, via Politico, 12/19/10]

What We’re Reading

The British police arrested 12 men in raids in three cities under counterterrorism laws – the biggest operation of its kind for months.

Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.

South Korea staged live-fire artillery drills on an island near North Korea, but a statement from the North’s official news agency said it was “not worth reacting” to the exercise.

After 16 years in office, Belarus’s President, Alexander Lukashenko, appeared headed for another five-year term in a controversial election that was quickly followed by violent late-night street clashes and accusations of vote fraud from human rights groups.

A political standoff has forced nearly 4,000 citizens of northwest Ivory Coast to flee to neighboring countries, prompting fears of regional insecurity, according to the United Nations.

Afghanistan plans to inaugurate it’s new parliament on January 20, President Hamid Karzai’s chief spokesman said, more than four months after a parliamentary election marked by widespread fraud.

Bolivian prosecutors have charged 39 people in an alleged plot to assassinate President Evo Morales and launch an armed rebellion last year.

Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi indicated that he will take part in the new Iraqi Cabinet that his rival, incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, plans to present to parliament, effectively ending a months-long political stalemate.

Venezuela’s lame-duck, pro-government congress has given temporary one-man rule to President Hugo Chavez, less than three weeks before a newly elected National Assembly with enough government foes to hamper some of his initiatives takes office.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir promised to turn Sudan into a state governed by Islamic law if the south chooses to secede in a referendum next month

Commentary of the Day

Richard Haass writes we can prevent the return of al Qaeda in Afghanistan with far fewer troops, and the current policy is diverting scarce military resources while threats like Iran and North Korea loom.

Tony Karon says, alarmist claims notwithstanding, Washington can bide its time on Tehran’s nuclear ambition.

Jim Isenhower explains that democracy and stability may still have a long way to go, but Iraqi citizens and security forces are taking back their communities, rooting out terrorists, and making peace.

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