The 111th Congress has been an astounding success. But throughout the last two years, when we have failed to pass good laws, it’s unusually been our colleagues on the other side of the Capitol who have stood in the way of progress and practiced stubborn obstructionism. The Senate is where good legislation goes to die.
So I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that it remains so right down to the final days of our session. It appears now that there aren’t enough Republican votes to ratify the New START treaty, which would make huge strides toward reducing the threat of nuclear destruction.
This is distressing news. After years of negligence on nuclear issues, New START could finally put us on a course toward the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons. It would drastically reduce the size of nuclear arsenals here in the United States and in Russia. It would improve our access to Russian nuclear facilities, which we have been unable to inspect since the expiration of the original START treaty nearly a year ago. It will put our relationship with Russia on more solid footing, enhancing bilateral cooperation on a host of issues.
In the words of the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Mr. Kerry: "Ratifying New START is not a political choice, it’s a national security imperative."
But apparently some over in the other chamber aren’t moved by national security imperatives. For them 1,550 strategic warheads – the level mandated by New START – isn’t a sufficient arsenal...even though it is enough to blow up the world several times over.
The only way they know to deal with national security threats is to send thousands of American troops to die in failed wars that carry a combined price tag of over $1 trillion.
New START isn’t perfect. I wish it were less incremental and more ambitious. I wish it embraced more of the principles contained in my resolution: "Non-proliferation Options for Nuclear Understanding to Keep Everyone Safe"...or "No Nukes" for short. No Nukes would move more aggressively toward complete nuclear global disarmament, which was exactly the long-term goal we committed to as a nation when we signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 40 years ago.
But New START is most definitely consistent with the Smart Security platform I have laid out many times. Specifically, it advances the idea that we make the world safer not through violence, acts of war and weapons escalation ...but through diplomacy, cooperation and conflict resolution.
New START is good enough as a first step for me. It’s good enough for top military brass past and present. It’s good enough for leading foreign policy dignitaries from across the political spectrum.
The only holdouts are a minority of senators who seem more interested in embarrassing the president on the international stage than they are in a major national security breakthrough.
Concessions have been made to these lawmakers. Their opinions have been heard and their concerns addressed. Now it’s time for action. For the safety of the American people – and possibly the future of human civilization – it’s time to pass New START.