START Treaty Overcomes Two Republican Amendments

President Obama and Congressional Democrats hope to ratify the START Treaty Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ) negotiated between the U.S. and Russia back in April, before the 111th Congress breaks for the final time. The 112th Congress with its diminished Democratic majority takes their seats in January; their 58-42 majority was reduced to 53-47 in November.

We have addressed this matter frequently here at PoliticusUSA, and with good reason. Republican opponents have made clear their intention to obstruct passage of the Treaty and in this at least, if not their economic policies, they have been true to their word. I wrote originally about this Republican gamesmanship back on November 17. And as Sarah Jones reported on December 4, and both she and Jason Easley reported again on December 16, the Republicans are guilty of holding our national security hostage.

RMuse reported on December 17 about the Republican attempt to use Christmas as an excuse to ignore important matters of national security. They could apparently impeach President Clinton for Jesus’ birthday but not ratify a treaty. This holiday, they tell us, is all about world peace; but apparently not world peace when it’s sponsored by a Democrat.

The many excuses offered read like a Letterman Top 10 list, and are as unconvincing:

1)      We don’t have time because there is too much else to do

2)      We don’t have time because it’s Baby Jesus’ birthday

3)      We don’t have time because it’s too complex for us to understand

4)      We’ll lose our ability to set up a missile defense system

5)      We want tax cuts for the rich first

6)      We have to modernize our nuclear weapons complex first

The Democrats and the White House have taken note of these many absurd excuses and have been pushing all the buttons they can, and have several cogent arguments to offer:

Wednesday, the Senate voted 66-32 to open debate on the treaty. At that time, nine Republicans voted with 55 Democrats and two independents, including Richard Lugar of the Foreign Relations Committee, and John McCain. Those 66 votes are one short of what would be needed to ratify the treaty.

The Republicans countered with an attempt to amend the terms of the treaty. An amendment by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., failed on Saturday on a 59-37 vote.

The Russians have made clear that any amendment means the treaty is dead. We’d have to go back to start on START, and negotiate an entirely new treaty, which suits Republican purposes well.

On Sunday, that attempt failed on a 32-60 vote. The amendment was put forward by Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho. It would have changed the preamble to the treaty to address the “inter-relationship between non-strategic and strategic offensive arms.

Republicans continue to complain that the preamble would inhibit U.S. development of a missile defense system.

Democrats hope to vote on ratification on Tuesday. Republicans have their hackles up, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed to CNN that “Members are uneasy about it, don’t feel thoroughly familiar with it, and I think we would have been a lot better off to take our time. Rushing it right before Christmas strikes me as trying to jam us. … I think that was not the best way to get the support of people like me.”

Of course, a vote on Tuesday would not be rushing it. The Senators have had all year to look at the treaty. It is not as if it was negotiated yesterday.

Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, isn’t having any of that. He has pointed out that there had already been several delays to give Kyl and the other Republicans an opportunity to have their concerns addressed. “We kept the door open until we finally are at a point where obviously we had to fish or cut bait.”.

Despite Republican opposition by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz, Fox News reports that “Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a supporter of the treaty, said several Republicans will support ratification and he believes the votes are there.”

Senator Evan Bayh missed the vote but according to an aide would provide the needed 67th vote, offering some hope that Republican efforts will be for naught.

It goes not only against the spirit of Reagan, who proposed the original START Treaty, but the advice of the military (who, after all, ought to be the experts in this area) to obstruct passage of this very important treaty and which makes clear that continued Republican opposition is simply a continuation of their two-year-old effort to block everything President Obama tries to do.

At least Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has given up his attempt to have the document read on the floor of the Senate, a process which would take some fifteen hours given the treaty’s 17 pages plus 339 pages of protocol and annexes, a sign that perhaps he realizes he can’t stop the process at this point as he turns his wrath on the $1.1 trillion government spending bill, should it come up. There are always new battles to fight, after all, and new excuses to invent. Life’s busy for a Republican senator these days.

8 Replies to “START Treaty Overcomes Two Republican Amendments”

  1. I do not think that Ronald Reagan is pertinent today to the Republican Party. To quote a phrase used 1 million times a day, “I don’t think Ronald would approve of the Republican Party of 2010”

    This has been on the desk of Republicans since April. And they are arrogant enough to try and tell us they are not familiar with it and that they need time to study it. That tells me besides the fact that they are arrogant that they are not doing their job. I guess when you’re too busy being the tea party you don’t have time for America

    As for Mr. Jim DeMint, he may have his wrath at the $1.1 trillion spending bill, but the $1.1 trillion figure came straight from Mitch McConnell as the number that he felt we needed to spend.
    “In January, Republicans proposed a $1.1 trillion cap for the 2011 fiscal year to fight “Washington’s voracious appetite for spending.” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) reminded them of the fact on the Senate floor Thursday, saying it’s true there is “$1.1 trillion in this bill” but “that’s exactly the amount that they asked for.”

    and now McConnell, Kyl, John Boehner and Jim DeMint are expressing fake rage for the benefit of their mindless followers. These people are utterly disgusting

  2. I could not agree more with your article Hraf, and it is insulting that Republicans are so careless with our national security. As usual, the MSM is absent and silent and they are as culpable as Republicans willing to endanger us all to obstruct the Dems and Obama.
    It’s bad enough what they are doing to 98% of Americans who aren’t wealthy, but this is mass destruction dangerous.

    At some point, the American people are going to have to awaken from their malaise and get informed. Maybe if the MSM would do their job, Republicans would be swept from office, but that is a pipe dream. We cannot ignore this and cannot put it out there enough. Nice job as usual.

  3. I agree, Shiva, both about Reagan and his relevance to the GOP of today and also the spending bill. It’s like watching an orgy of mindlessness unfold. They might as well run around screaming “the sky is falling!”

  4. Thanks, RMuse. The “liberal media elite” is as usual just being brutal on the Republicans isn’t it? How does the GOP retain any credibility at all with the relentless attacks of the MSM? Hehe

  5. Couldn’t agree more. If this were reversed, we’d be hearing screams of agony with flags waving – esp after last night’s drama. But MSM reports this as if they haven’t had time to read it, as if they don’t have aides reading their bills, as if their reasons are legitimate. Epic fail by MSM.

  6. You got it, Sarah. There would be investigations going on and sirens and screams if things were reversed.

  7. One word I searched for is Russia, as in what do the Russians think the treaty means and I did not find it in any response and only in the original article talking about an amendment. As I understand it, they think the preamble means building missile defense is in violation of the treaty. The democrats are once again compromising on US security.

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