Lame Duck, Lame START: Inappropriate Timing for New START Debate
- No “Lame Duck” Vote in History: Of the major nuclear arms control treaties between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation, none has been voted on in the U.S. Senate during a “lame duck” session. It is unprecedented for the U.S. Senate to vote on a treaty of this importance and magnitude during a lame duck session of Congress.
- Weakening Our Missile Defense Amid Growing Threats: New START imposes restrictions on U.S. missile defense through the Preamble, Article V of the Treaty, and additional provisions in the Protocol and Annexes.
- 33 Minutes: As the threat of ballistic missiles launched from Iran, North Korea, or potential coalitions of hostile parties grows, so does the need for more robust defenses. No matter where on earth a missile is launched, it would take 33 minutes or less to hit the U.S. target it was programmed to destroy.
Rush to Ratification
- Unprecedented Deadlines: The Senate considered the original START for nearly a year, and the Moscow Treaty, which was far less complex than New START, was before the Senate for nearly nine months. The Obama Administration took more than 12 months to negotiate New START but has sought approval from the Senate in less than five. The rush to ratification undermines the important role of “advice and consent” that the Senate must exercise on any treaty of this magnitude.
- No Time for Due Diligence: Treaties such as New START, a major nuclear arms agreement, require more scrutiny than others. If the Administration and Senate leadership push for a vote on New START during the lame duck session, the Senate would not have time to adequately evaluate it, especially newly seated Senators who need time to become educated on the content of the treaty.
- Russia Is Not Committed to Ratification: Russia’s International Affairs Committee annulled its support for ratification of New START following disagreements over the U.S. interpretation of the treaty with regard to rail-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, missile defense, and Prompt Global Strike. The committee’s action raises a number of questions for the U.S. Senate that the Administration must answer before it moves to consider the treaty.
- Biased Hearings: There is a significant precedent with regard to the number of hearings given to arms treaties. The INF treaty received more than 45 hearings. START II received at least 50 hearings. New START received only 12 hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and three in the Senate Armed Services Committee. The process through which the treaty was handled by the Foreign Relations Committee was clearly biased, with hearings packed with “treaty-friendly” witnesses. Out of 22 witnesses, only two expressed skepticism.
- Release the Negotiating Record: President Obama has refused to give the Senate access to the record that includes all draft versions of the START treaty, memoranda, notes, and communications between U.S. and Russian negotiators. The record is critical to clear up questions on key provisions in the treaty and how the Russians interpret them. Even if released today, the Senate would not have the time necessary to review the record in the crowded lame duck schedule.
- Allow Time for Due Diligence: The Founding Fathers intended for the Senate to serve as a quality control mechanism in the making of treaties. The Senate is constitutionally mandated to give due diligence in its consideration of New START. This responsibility is not consistent with a rushed process.
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