Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Senate ratifies New START arms control treaty by a vote of seventy-one to twenty-six

Congratulations are again in order to President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, this time for successfully shepherding the New START arms control treaty with Russia through the U.S. Senate.

The treaty, negotiated with Russia from the spring of 2009 to the spring of this year, was initially signed by Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in Prague on April 8th, 2010. It is not as bold or as ambitious as its predecessors, but it is still critically important. Its ratification is a significant victory for America's national defense.

The treaty's provisions call for the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers (whether they be installed in missile silos, bombers, or submarines) to be reduced by half, and for a new inspection and verification system to be established. The number of deployed strategic warheads, meanwhile, must be limited to 1,550, down nearly two-thirds from START I (which went into effect in the 1970s).

As mentioned, the ratification vote was seventy one to twenty six. A two thirds supermajority is required by the Constitution to approve treaties negotiated by the President, so a minimum of sixty six votes were needed to pass New START.

All of the Pacific Northwest's senators voted for ratification, except for Jim Risch and Mike Crapo of Idaho, who should be ashamed of themselves.

No Democrat voted against ratification; all twenty-six "nay" votes came from Republicans. Three Republicans did not cast votes.

Republicans who voted "aye" were Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Robert Bennett of Utah, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and George V. Voinovich of Ohio.

Bennett, Gregg, and Voinovich are retiring in a matter of days, and half of the remaining Republicans represent states that voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

Neither Mitch McConnell nor John McCain were willing to vote for the treaty.

POSTSCRIPT: President Obama chose to deliver his statement on the ratification of New START at a press conference rather than releasing a written statement to the media, emphasizing the importance of the vote.
This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify.

We’ll continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges — from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. And this treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them.
Ratifying New START was a no-brainer. It's truly appalling that most of the Senate Republican caucus chose to withhold their support. The President can talk about bipartisan cooperation all he wants, but the reality is, he's dealing with an opposition party that wants to crucify him. And Republicans are going to have far more votes in Congress in a matter of days than they currently have. That will make legislative successes of any kind few and far between.

The President owes a lot to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. They marshaled Democratic votes to get his postelection priorities through Congress on a short timeframe (with the exception of the DREAM Act). If Obama had had to deal exclusively with Republicans, he would have gotten nowhere. Democrats provided a whopping eighty two percent of the seventy one votes that New START received.

This New START vote should (but unfortunately won't) put to rest Republicans' offensive claims that they can be trusted to look out for America's security. The reality is that politics are more important to Republicans than anything else. They proved their critics correct today by mostly refusing to vote with Democrats in favor of this vitally important arms control treaty.


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