Yesterday, Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced the delay of a vote in the Committee for the ratification of the New START treaty. The mark-up of the ratification resolution and committee vote was originally scheduled to take place today. This was an unfortunate delay since it only further endangers American security and prolongs the time during which we will not have verification and inspection access to Russian strategic systems. It also points to what the Republican General Brent Scowcroft, former national security advisor to George H. W. Bush, officially stated. According to the Washington Post Scowcroft stated the political battle was the most bitter he had seen over a nuclear treaty. Scowcroft supports the treaty though he explains, “There’s an atmosphere of great hostility.”
Senator Kerry has planned a vote in mid-September in his committee and hopes for a vote on the floor shortly thereafter. But the closer one gets to the election, it is likely that partisanship will increase, regardless of the possibility of detrimental impacts on American security interests. There has been increasing concern among expert observers over the cost of partisan deadlock and especially over the unprecedented use of the filibuster to prevent action on vitally needed reforms which address national needs.
It is now more important than ever, when Congress takes their summer recess, to contact your senators and voice your views on the ratification of the New START treaty. There is a high probability that the far right will be doing so in their usual concerted way. Already, the conservative Heritage Action for America and a “tea party” -affiliated group, Liberty Central, are actively opposing the treaty. This will also impact the effort to continue with the further Russian reductions and the agreement on added confidence building measures which add to our security. Recently, the Washington Post has even reported dismay among our allies resulting from U.S. domestic disputes over ratification of the treaty.
Again the Republicans, our deficit hawks, are insisting on spending $100 billion dollars over 10 years on “modernization” of our nuclear weapons that we do not need. We need 8 Republican votes for the treaty and the Democratic caucus has 58 votes. Obama has pledged to spend $80 billion or a $10 billion increase over last year. Republicans say this is not enough. “Modernize” has also become a term for the Republicans to build entirely new weapons while our existing stockpile is both more than we need and certified as being effective.
The bottom line is that we need both more responsible national party politics and a more informed public who will hold these irresponsible acts accountable. Please add your voice to this debate.