(CNSNews.com) – The
Critics say a vote on New START, if successful, would be the first time the Senate has given its advice and consent to the ratification of a major treaty during a lame-duck session.
Wrangling over the treaty – which White House press secretary Robert Gibbs Tuesday called “a strong and important priority” for President Obama – has become an unforgiving fight between resurgent congressional Republicans unhappy with the document as it stands and the administration, which has secured and highlighted the support of prominent members of past Republican administrations.
A spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that debate on both New START and an omnibus government spending bill would likely begin “as early as tomorrow,” following a vote on the tax package compromise negotiated between Obama and the GOP.
The treaty, signed by Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev in
A vote in this Congress would require nine Republicans to side with all 58 Democrats (including the two Independent senators) for the measure to pass. In the next Congress the number of GOP votes needed would rise to 14.
Supporters of the treaty were buoyed late last week by expressions of support from
Republican Sens. Bob Corker (
Much attention was given a speech Friday by Sen. John McCain (R-
Gibbs expressed optimism that the treaty has the required votes.
“I think it’s clear that if you look at the number of Democrats and Republicans that have said they’re supportive of this treaty, that number is at or exceeds 67,” he said. “That’s the number we need and that’s the number that we expect to exceed when this is passed.”
‘No principled basis for objecting to clear language’
One of the most contentious issues in the wording of the treaty is whether it limits future
Missile defense arises both in the preamble, which recognizes “the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms,” and in the treaty itself, where article five prohibits the placement of missile defense interceptors in intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, or the conversion or missile defense interceptors into ICBM or SLBM launchers
The Obama administration has said repeatedly that the treaty does not in any way constrain
Two days before the treaty was signed in April, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that
“If the Obama administration believes that New START does not limit America’s right to missile-defense development, then it has no principled basis for opposing the addition of clear language in the actual treaty codifying this right,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute argued Tuesday.
Although the Senate alone has responsibility for giving advice and consent to international treaties, members of the House of Representatives have also entered the discussion.
Incoming Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. “Buck” McKeon (
Acknowledging that the House has no role in voting on New START, they pointed out that “the outcome of the treaty will undoubtedly impact national security policy and investment decisions within our jurisdiction as authorizers of the annual defense bill, and we will be responsible for overseeing its implementation.”
“Because of these roles, we feel compelled to express our concerns.”
On the Democratic side of the House, outgoing chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Howard Berman (
In a Gallup poll released last week, 51 percent of respondents said they would support New START, 30 percent said they would oppose it and 19 percent were undecided. In a breakdown by party, identified Democrats supported the treaty by 56-28, and Republicans by 49-34.