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Will the Senate Vote on New START This Year?

November 23, 2010

Senators left Washington for the Thanksgiving break without scheduling a vote on ratification of the New START Treaty with Russia. Now the question is will the Senate vote on the treaty when Congress returns for the second half of the lame duck session on November 29? Our Hill sources tell us there  is time on the Senate schedule for a vote on ratification — senators expect expect to be in Washington for at least two weeks in early December and maybe three.  The question is will there be the political will?

Behind the scenes, Congressional staff tell FCNL that negotiations to secure a vote were going on even after the Senator returned home to their districts. The White House, the Energy Department, the State Department, and the Pentagon are all answer questions and last minute details. But while these negotiations were going on in private behind closed door, in public several senators began suggesting that the vote should be put off until next year.

Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, who has emerged as a spokesperson for his party on this issue, said  last week that he doesn’t think it will be possible to secure a vote on the treaty in the lame duck session. Senator Kyl and others argue there is no rush to ratify this treaty that reduces the number of deployed nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia and reestablishes protocols for each country to monitor the other country’s compliance with the treaty obligations.

Since Senator Kyl made this statement, several other Senators have also spoke out in favor of delay. That position won them so sharp criticism from Senator Richard Lugar, the Republican statesman from Indiana. Current and former members of the United States military have also stepped in to urge the Senate to vote this year for ratification of the treaty.

In a story last Saturday, the Washington Post reported

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) “essential to our future security.” Retired generals have been so concerned about getting it ratified that some have traveled around the country promoting it. Seven of eight former commanders of U.S. nuclear forces have urged the Senate to approve the treaty.

As most readers of this blog know, our FCNL community has joined with most of the foreign policy establishment from both political parties and many former and current members of the Armed Forces to argue in favor of ratification. Our grassroots constituents around the country have been sending emails and arranging meetings to urge the Senate to act before Christmas. In addition, we’ve been reaching out to other faith communities and allied organizations to build alliances in favor of ratification.

We don’t think this is the perfect treaty. For our Quaker lobby, the New START treaty, like its predecessor START, falls far short of our goal of complete and general nuclear disarmament. Yet we believe that this treaty is a step in the right direction.  If the Senate ratifies it, the treaty will further reduce the numbers of deployed nuclear weapons in both countries from 2,200 down to 1,550 on each side. That will make us all safer and more secure.

Just as importantly, the resumption of inspections and verification will, we believe, help to reduce the perception of threat between the U.S. and Russia and will increase confidence on both sides that peace is normal and can be maintained and built upon.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider sending letters to your senators supporting a vote on ratification of New START during the lame duck session. If you have already sent messages, please ask five friends to do the same.

  1. Edith Allen permalink
    November 24, 2010 12:56 am

    My New York State Senators are supporting New START. What else can I do in support ??

  2. Stephen Donahoe permalink
    November 24, 2010 7:26 am

    @ Edith: You could call and email friends and family in other states and ask them to encourage their senators to call for a vote on START. Thanks for your work for a nuclear weapons- free world!

  3. Steve Olshewsky permalink
    November 24, 2010 9:55 am

    Edith, I think even supportive Senatirs need to hear how inportant this issue is.

    Senator McConnell’s office last week offered two reasons for delay. Remember, they are hearing opposition to START.

    Quakers wrote the book on careful and patient consideration to avoid rash action and McConnell’s staff pointed out that the predecessor treaty was two years in the making. However, the amount of work (including groundwork done by President Bush) done over this last year plus has been more than diligent.

    The excuse for delay we heard is McConnel’s need to verify that the treaty is “even” between us and Russia and a Heritage Foundation assessment suggesting this concern was promoted last April. Since then however, 21 Congressional Testimonies (including the past five chairs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and four briefings should have laid those questions to rest.

    I want to be proud of my country and I want to feel safe, so it is particularly difficult to read news suggesting that Senator Kyl is playing political games with something that literally reduces danger and builds confidence through the trust established by previous administrations.

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