John Isaacs: Passage Difficult, But Necessary
September 13, 2010 10:05 AM
John Isaacs, Executive Director, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
This week, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry and Ranking Republican Richard Lugar are bringing the New START Treaty to a vote in committee. It is time to move to the treaty to the end game.
Senators like nothing better than avoiding a potentially difficult vote. A careful vote count indicates that 36 of 41 Republican Senators have yet to declare a position on the treaty. This situation is much better than that faced the health care bill, financial reform or the recently-proposed $50 million infrastructure program, where Republicans were overwhelmingly opposed from the beginning.
Kerry and Lugar are correct to move to a vote, and then work for a unanimous consent agreement for a floor vote. Most of the GOP Senators’ questions about the treaty relate to issues not within the four corners of the treaty: the pace of U.S. nuclear modernization and our commitment to missile defense, to name two. These are issues that can be dealt with through the resolution of ratification and White House negotiations with key Republicans. Even Arizona Senator Jon Kyl has called the treaty “benign.”
The treaty clearly enhances U.S. national security. It is overwhelmingly supported by our military leadership and past high ranking national security officials of both parties, including Republicans such as James Schlesinger, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and Colin Powell. Only when the treaty enters into effect, the U.S. can resume onsite inspection of Russian nuclear weapons and facilities – suspended about 280 days ago.
When will the Senate floor vote be scheduled in the next few weeks or in a lame duck session? As usual, that depends on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell coming to a unanimous consent agreement. Difficult path ahead? Sure. But so many recognize the value of the treaty and the danger of defeating the it or letting it vegetate. Which is why former Defense Secretary Schlesinger said: “I think that it is obligatory for the United States to ratify [New START].”