Not Dead Yet: Discussion of New START Saved for Last Possible Moment

As the lame duck session continues, one item has yet to be adressed: New START. We’ve talked about this treaty quite a bit, and it’s been lingering just off the Senate calendar for quite a while.

Even as numerous Republican Senators have stated concerns with or opposition to New START, President Obama and his allies have been claiming they have the votes to pass the treaty. It’s not just enough to have the votes, what needs to happen is a substantive consideration of New START’s impact on foreign relations and national security.

There is not enough time left in the lame duck to have that substantive consideration. New START needs to wait for the next Congress.

As the Washington Post noted, Republican Senators have substantive concerns on how New START affects the United States’ ability to develop and deploy missile defense systems. These concerns need to be addressed through analysis of the New START negotiating record, which the administration has not made available.

Douglas J. Feith, under secretary of defense from 2001 to 2005, argues substantively against New START in this Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:

Mr. Obama agreed to treaty language linking offensive reductions with missile defense, limiting launch vehicles, and restricting conversion of ICBMs for missile defense purposes. He accepted counting rules that would impede us in converting nuclear ICBMs, say, to conventional missiles. They would still count as nuclear weapons and could force us to give up other nuclear weapons. Mr. Obama also accepted ineffectual verification measures that establish a bad precedent.

The American arms-control priesthood was quick to praise New Start. But the U.S. Senate has the responsibility to evaluate Mr. Obama’s concessions. At a minimum, that requires reviewing the negotiating record—which has yet to be provided to the Senate.

This treaty treads on dangerous ground. The Obama administration and their allies in the Senate are seeking to rush it through at the last possible minute, without giving Senators the full negotiating record. A thorough airing of the negotiations and resultant policy are vital to the Senate’s role in the treaty process. It’s now too late for either, and Obama’s rush tramples the responsible process.

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