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Friendly Persuasion at the New START Lobby Day

November 16, 2010

The first floor atrium of Hart Senate Office Building looked like an extension of FCNL’s Annual Meeting in the late morning hours of Monday, November 15.  Or at least that was the impression that one visitor had as FCNL grassroots lobbyists fanned out across the Senate to talk about the importance of ratifying the New START Treaty with Russia during the lame duck session of Congress.

Nearly 100 people from across the country came together for a day of briefings on the New START and then an intensive day of lobbying.   FCNL’s David Culp organized the lobby day for our constituents who attended Annual Meeting and persuaded three other organizations to cosponsor the event and encourage their constituents to attend:  Citizens for Global Solutions, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Women’s Action for New Directions.

Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller addresses participants in Lobby Day.

The most powerful briefing came on Monday morning when Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, briefed the gathering on the administration’s efforts to secure ratification of the treaty. FCNL’s David Culp welcomed Gottemoeller to the briefing and organized a brief question and answer sessions after she spoke.

Following that briefing, participants fanned out across the Senate to meet with individual members of Congress. All told, the participants logged close to 40 separate lobby visits according to FCNL Program Assistant Deana Boyd (who did much of the logistical work for the lobby day). Most of the participants met with Congressional staff because Senators do not typically arrive in Washington until Monday evening. But at least five different groups met with their Senators to discuss the importance of Senate ratification of the New START Treaty.

At a meeting in Sen. John Kyl's office (AZ) on Monday, November 15, 2010, FCNL lobbyist David Culp; Rev. Liana Rowe, FCNL’s consultant working on mobilizing faith communities in Arizona; and Kyrsten Sinema, state senator-elect from Arizona discuss the New START Treaty with two staffers for Senator Kyl.

The actual lobby day was filled with the different, and sometimes conflicting, reports of progress on treaty ratification.  The Senator began arriving back in town Monday for the first part of the lame duck session of this Congress. They are expected to be in town all week and then go home for the thanksgiving break before returning on November 29 for one or two weeks of business.

Ratifying treaties requires an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Senate — 67 votes. Thanks in large part to your efforts around the country, we at FCNL believe that if the treaty is brought to a vote, there will be at least 67 votes in favor of ratification. The challenge is persuading the leadership of both parties in the Senate to schedule floor time for a vote. The principal ask in our lobby visits was please schedule floor time for a vote on this important issue that will make the world safer.

Throughout the day, our constituents met with different Senate offices and followed press reports about the vote. Early on Monday, Arizona Senator John McCain expressed optimism that the treaty could be ratified during the lame duck session. Then several hours later Senator Kyl said he was less optimistic about the prospects for ratification during the lame duck session. For FCNL’s David Culp, the public statements were evidence that there are intense negotiations going on behind the scenes to secure a vote.

Rose Gottemoeller, Diane Randall and David Culp at the lobby day

FCNL’s Executive Secretary Joe Volk, who has worked on these issues for 20 years, participated in the lobby day on November 15. Although he was focused primarily on running the lobby day, FCNL’s David Culp did get a chance to introduce Rose Gottemoeller to our new Executive Secretary, Diane Randall, who will take over from Joe Volk on March 1, 2011.

6 Comments
  1. Russell permalink
    November 16, 2010 8:59 pm

    Extremely disappointed that Sen. Kyl has chosen to play political football with this treaty. What has happened to statesmanship??

  2. Nancy Taylor permalink
    November 17, 2010 12:18 pm

    I, too, was terribly disappointed to open the NYT this morning to see that Sen. Kyl will block the ratification of New Start. It sounds like some think it’s dead. How can one member of Congress be so powerful?! Please let us know if there’s a glimmer of hope, and what we can do to fan the flame.

  3. Zulema Seligsohn permalink
    November 17, 2010 12:21 pm

    Again disappointed that because one Senator (no matter how powerful) disagrees, the treaty will not be put to a vote. If it isn’t brought to a vote, the people won’t know who the culprit is. This has happened again and again in this administration, with the Democrats hiding instead of fighting.

  4. Steve Olshewsky permalink
    November 17, 2010 1:39 pm

    In Mitch McConnell’s office, the first excuse for delay was straight off of the Heritage Foundation webpage about START being uneven between the USA & Russia.
    http://mittromneycentral.com/2010/07/21/start-treaty-the-heritage-foundation-supports-mitt-romney-behind-the-scene-look-at-uneasy-progressives/
    The second objection was that the original START took two years to negotiate, so what’s the rush. The experts (David Culp, Rose Gottemoeller) seemed to think these were specious arguments. I hope Mitch McConnell is using these thinnest of arguments so he can quickly say he is satisfied and move ahead when Kyl gives the green light. I say Kyl because Jim Bunning’s staff identified him as the point person on this.
    If you are in Kentucky or Arizona, the GOP leadership needs an email from you immediately!

  5. November 17, 2010 3:59 pm

    Nancy,

    We don’t think that Kyl will necessarily be able to block a vote on New START. In fact, it may be that this is a negotiating tactic and that will a strong mobilization around the country we can persuade the Senate to act during the lame duck. Thanks for your help.
    Jim

  6. November 29, 2010 8:58 pm

    No one person should have the power to prevent a vote by the whole body, either to flaunt power or to bottle up a disliked bill. I expect my representatives to express their views and hear the views of others and then to bring the matter to vote. The majority of the vote should stand. START is a repetition of a former agreement with Russia and should be a routine vote. To delay without reason is an embarrassment for our diplomatic efforts for peace. Shame!

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