America Doesn’t Want Republicans to Hold National Security Hostage
Mitch McConnell and his Republican brethren sent a letter to Senate Democrats a few days ago announcing that no laws would be passed until the Democrats give them tax cuts for the rich. They claimed that this pledge didn’t include the START treaty, and then like clockwork, they started denouncing the START treaty, so yeah, it includes the START treaty- a matter of national security if not global security. Democrats are beginning to realize that negotiating with Republicans “is almost like negotiating with terrorists”.
The New York Times reported on the letter the Republican senators sent to Senate Democrats, which Wednesday morning Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office proudly passed on to reporters:
“No tax-cut extension? No laws for you!
In a letter signed by the 42 members of the Republican caucus, delivered to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and mentioned Wednesday on the Senate floor by the minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republicans informed their Democratic counterparts that they would not go forward with “any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.” The letter goes on: “With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities. While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.””
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama signed the new START treaty on April 8 in Prague to replace the original treaty agreement that expired in December 2009. It can only come into being after it is ratified by both houses of the Russian parliament and the U.S. Senate. Without START ratified, we have no way of keeping track of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
Republicans claimed the START treaty would not be impacted by their Extortion Game, but then, they say a lot of things they don’t mean – like meeting with the President to forge a path to bipartisanship and then hours later coming out with a petulant letter claiming they will take their toys and go home if the rich people don’t get theirs’. Obviously their own prior Secretaries of States didn’t believe them either or they wouldn’t have taken to TV to denounce this action.
And then came their letter December 2.
“In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Hatch and others noted the Majority might try to bring the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) to the Senate floor in the lame duck session and urged the leader to consult them before entering into any time or amendment agreements.
The senators wrote: “New START is a complex agreement and will have lasting implications for the national security of this nation. With the limited floor time available before Sine Die, we want to ensure that a treaty of this magnitude receives sufficient debate and consideration so that all consequences, both intended and unintended, can be vetted.
“We have numerous amendments requiring significant debate to the treaty as well as the resolution of ratification that we would like to offer and have votes on. It would be unwise and improper to do this in a hurried fashion over the course of only a few days.”
This is the same excuse they use for everything they want to obstruct: They claim it’s “rushed”. They’ve had this legislation on their desks since Spring. Do you mean to tell me their aides haven’t had time to read it yet? If so, why is that? What kind of elected official ignores national security for over 8 months?
Of course, this talking point is spreading like wild fire, as Mitt Romney took to the Boston Globe to spread the meme that the President is “rushing” the START treaty, like he “rushed” healthcare. Which wasn’t rushed for anyone who is capable of reading more than a one paragraph email.
President Obama cautioned, “A failure to ratify New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) would be a dangerous gamble with America’s national security. There is enough gridlock, enough bickering. If there is one issue that should unite us – as Republicans and Democrats – it should be our national security.”
But guess what?
They have no intention of ratifying START until nuclear pork is handed out. So this isn’t even just extortion for tax cuts for the rich, it’s a lie of extortion or extortion upon extortion.
Think Progress reported several months ago:
“Mitch McConnell yesterday made it abundantly clear what the hold up is about – the GOP (and more specifically Senator Jon Kyl) hasn’t been bought off yet. Corker himself noted last week, he supports the treaty but is following Kyl’s lead and holding out for more pork. McConnell told Reuters in a shocking degree of candor:…
‘All they have to do is find enough money to satisfy Senator Kyl that they are prepared to do what they said they would do… If it’s important to you, you can find a way, in an over a trillion dollar discretionary budget to fund it. In my view they need to do that, because without that I think the chances of ratification are pretty slim.’”
Prior to their announcement that they were holding up START, I was of the resigned opinion that if Democrats needed to give a two year extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy in order to get them for the middle class, it should be done. Historically the lame duck session is not a time to pass tons of your own ideologically driven legislation, and compromise was expected. After all, we’re in a recession and I simply couldn’t justify hurting the middle class in order to lower the deficit or to take a philosophical stand against the top 2 percent. I didn’t like it, but I was reconciled to it.
However, what has become abundantly clear is that the Republicans are not negotiating in good faith. Yes, I realize this is not a bombshell, but until now they have not copped to this strategy in writing, nor so blatantly admitted that they would hold national security hostage to get what they want. The closest they’ve come to this is holding up appointments which impact our security, such as the TSA chief, an appointment they held up over concerns that Obama’s picks might want to unionize the TSA.
Somehow the notion that the American people elected Obama because they want him to pick the folks in charge has escaped the understanding of Republicans, who like to pretend that all Americans oppose Obama’s ideas. They don’t. I doubt you could find a majority of Americans who would agree that they would rather not have a TSA Chief of Security if it means that person might unionize the TSA.
But now all bets are off. Gone is the Republican’s promise on November 2, 2010 to reach across the aisle. Republicans have offered no promise or proof of promise that even if they get what they want, they will be willing to compromise in return and their recent history does nothing to support this fantasy. In fact, now Republicans are crowing about McConnell “menacing” the President with his announcement of obstruction. It seems the Republican Party learned nothing from Newt Gingrich’s Failed Debacle of Junior High tactics.
Politics is usually the art of compromise and diplomacy, but when you’re attempting to govern with a party that has no intentions of governing, a party whose ONLY goal is to see your party fail – even if it means America fails – then it’s time to play war.
No matter what Republicans claim on TV, the American people did not vote them into power to give tax breaks to the rich (polls prove this) nor did they vote them into power to obstruct our national security. There is no good reason, ever, to obstruct ratifying a treaty as important as the START treaty. To use such a safety measure (one that impacts the world, not just America) as a weapon to get what they want makes the Republican Party the enemy of America. And as they will tell you, you don’t appease the enemy.
Democratic Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said just hours ago, “Negotiating with Republicans (is) “almost” like negotiating with “terrorists.” Yes, almost. They’re holding up a nuclear treaty so they can get tax cuts for the rich and some nuclear pork. As an American citizen who pays taxes so these clowns can protect our community, I feel righteously ripped off right now.
And now, the Russians are threatening that if we make changes to START, they will need to do so as well. Speaker Boris Gryzlov of the lower house of Russian parliament, the State Duma, told the Rossiya TV channel:
“I hope the U.S. Congress ratifies the new START treaty, although we have already received information that they [United States] are trying to adjust and clarify the text. If they do this, we will have to do the same.”
While there is plenty of legislation on the table right now that I’d love to see passed (Democrats need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster but DADT looks to have the votes thanks to Tea Party defector Scott Brown, the DREAM act, not to mention the budget that needs to be passed to fund the government), nothing good will come of caving into political terrorism.
Republicans need to ratify the START treaty. There is no legitimate excuse for failing to do so. I realize that they dread having to give this “win” to the President, but even they must see that they have an obligation to the citizens of this country to protect us from international threats like nuclear war.
The notion that Republicans are so reading-impaired that they can’t read legislation that’s been on their desks for months is so pathetic that it should be turned around as a reason to stop paying them. Their job is to read legislation. They have many aides to assist them in this matter. If they are incapable of doing the job we are paying them to do, perhaps we should join up with the Tea Party in trying to get court approval to recall these folks.
Only after they ratify START or at least stop holding it hostage can any “negotiations” take place. Americans must not be willing victims of the Republican Party’s refusal to protect our safety.
We don’t negotiate with terrorists. And nothing says terrorist like refusing to allow the passage of a vital treaty in order to get an ideologically based piece of legislation passed in a lame duck session.
Just say ‘No’.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.