The Heritage Foundation
Last week, on the vote to begin debate on the New START treaty, the White House got the nine Republican votes they will need to ratify it: Senators Bob Bennett (UT), Scott Brown (MA), Susan Collins (ME), Lindsey Graham (SC), Dick Lugar (IN), John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Olympia Snowe (ME), and George Voinovich (OH). So now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) has filed for cloture, is Tuesday’s vote a foregone conclusion? No.
This Sunday, Senator Graham (R-SC) told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he will vote against the treaty. Graham explained his mostly procedural objections to New START: “If you want to have a chance of passing START, you better start over and do it in the next Congress, because this lame duck has been poisoned.”
And Graham is not the only member of the New START Nine rethinking their support. The treaty’s preamble contains language that links our development of missile defense to Russian nuclear weapons. The White House had claimed that the language was not legally binding, so Senator McCain offered an amendment to solve the problem by just removing the language entirely. That amendment failed, and now McCain tells National Review he has not made a decision on the treaty.
The White House is still confident that, despite losing Graham and possibly McCain, they can still muster the nine Republican votes needed for ratification.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama issued a letter pledging to fully develop missile defense in Europe. In the letter, the President claims that New START “places no limitations on the development or deployment of our missile defense programs” and promises that he “will take every action available to me to support the deployment of all four phases” of a missile defense system in Europe. Senator Bob Corker (R–TN) took to the floor welcoming the President’s letter: “A number of people on our side of the aisle have asked for it.”
These are some real nice promises that President Obama is making in this letter. But what are they worth? Did Senate conservatives believe President Obama when he said he would close Guantanamo Bay? Because it’s still open. Did these Senate conservatives believe President Obama when he said the individual mandate was not a tax? Because his lawyers have been claiming the exact opposite in court. Did these Senate conservatives believe the White House when they said the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8 percent? Because it is currently at 9.8 percent.
Senators should keep in mind this Administration’s hostility toward missile defense to begin with. Within months of assuming office, the Obama Administration announced a $1.4 billion cut to missile defense. The successful Airborne Laser boost-phase program was cut, the Multiple Kill Vehicle and Kinetic Energy Interceptor was terminated, and the expansion of ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California were canceled.
Adding insult to injury, President Obama then installed long-time anti-missile defense crusader Phillip Coyle as Associate Director for National Security in the White House Office of Science and Technology … by recess appointment. That’s right—this President not only appointed the “high priest” of missile defense denialism as his top adviser on missile defense, but he did so in a way to purposefully avoid Senate consultation on the matter. This is the President some Senate conservatives want to trust? On missile defense? Really?
New START is a bad deal for national security at any time. The Administration still refuses to release the treaty’s negotiation records. The Congress elected last month has a far more legitimate claim to approve this treaty than the one sworn into office two years ago, despite Senator John Kerry (D-MA) saying new members don’t count. The tax rates have been frozen. The spending has been frozen.
This Senate should just leave New START to the next Congress and go home.
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