Today in Washington, D.C. - Dec 20, 2010 - McConnell, Kyl, Announce Opposition To START Treaty: A Flawed, Mishandled Treaty
On Saturday, Democrats failed to get cloture on H.R. 5281, the House-passed version of the DREAM Act, by a vote of 55-41.
Also Saturday, the Senate voted 63-33 to invoke cloture on H.R. 2965, the standalone House-passed bill to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Later in the day, the Senate voted 65-31 to concur in the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 2965, which sent the bill repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law to the president for his signature.
Finally, the Senate on Saturday rejected by a vote of 37-59 an amendment to the START Treaty from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) removing language from the preamble of the treaty that links missile defense with offensive strategic nuclear weapons.
Yesterday, the Senate rejected an amendment to the START Treaty from Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) concerning tactical nuclear weapons by a vote of 32-60. Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture on the START Treaty and on the motion to concur in the House amendment to the Senate amendment to accompany HR 3082, the vehicle for the continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through early March. Those two cloture votes are expected to be held Tuesday.
CNN reported yesterday, “Senate Republicans mounted a counter-attack Sunday against ratifying a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia this year, trying to put off a vote that Democrats say they will win if it is held. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky led the way, telling CNN's ‘State of the Union’ that members of his party need more time to consider the START accord. ‘I’ve decided I cannot support the treaty,’ McConnell said in his first outright rejection of ratifying the treaty during the current lame-duck session of Congress.”
Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, Sen. McConnell explained his problems with the treaty. “First and foremost, a decision of this magnitude should not be decided under the pressure of a deadline. The American people don’t want us to squeeze our most important work into the final days of a session. They want us to take the time we need to make informed, responsible decisions. The Senate can do better than to have the consideration of a treaty interrupted by a series of controversial political items. So leaving aside for a moment any substantive concerns, and we have many, this is reason enough to delay a vote. No senator should be forced to make decisions like this so we can tick off another item on someone's political check list before the end of the year.”
Sen. McConnell pointed out that this treaty is another example of “the same cart-before-the-horse approach” the Obama administration has used on security and defense issues, where they rush into a policy and only later study the problem. For examples, he listed the White House’s decision to close Guantanamo Bay without a plan for what to do with the terrorists held there, the “the President’s rush to remove the Intelligence Community from interrogating captured terrorists, without any consideration as to how to deal with them,” and the rush to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
On the substance of the treaty, Sen. McConnell said, “[T]he New START Treaty does nothing to significantly reduce the Russian Federation’s stockpile of strategic arms, ignores the thousands of tactical weapons in the Russian arsenal, and contains an important concession linking missile defense to the strategic arms. We had to rush this treaty, according to the logic of the administration, because it had become an important component in the effort to ‘reset’ the bilateral relationship with the Russian Federation. It was brought up for debate prematurely because it was the first step in a pre-determined arms control agenda. The Senate’s constitutional role of advice and consent became an inconvenient impediment.”
Other key Republicans have voiced serious concerns about the START Treaty and the process by which Democrats are considering it. The New York Times writes, “The top two Senate Republicans declared Sunday that they would vote against President Obama’s nuclear treaty with Russia as the bipartisan spirit of last week’s tax-cut deal devolved into a sharp battle over national security in the waning days of the session. With some prominent Republicans angry over passage of legislation ending the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, the mood in the Senate turned increasingly divisive and Mr. Obama and Democratic lawmakers scrambled to hold together a coalition to approve the treaty.”
According to the NYT, “One Republican who had previously signaled willingness to support the treaty, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, suggested Sunday that he would not. Mr. Graham cited the sour mood engendered by Democrats forcing votes on other topics in recent days . . . . ‘If you really want to have a chance of passing Start, you better start over and do it in the next Congress because this lame duck has been poisoned,” Mr. Graham said on “Face the Nation’ on CBS. . . . [Senate Republican Whip Jon] Kyl, on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ said he would vote against the treaty unless it was amended. ‘This treaty needs to be fixed,’ he said.”
As Sen. McConnell concluded today, “Our top concern should be the safety and security of our nation, not some politician’s desire to declare a political victory and host a press conference before the first of the year. Americans have had more than enough of artificial timelines set by politicians eager for attention. They want us to focus on their concerns, not ours, and never more so than on matters of National Security.”
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