13 former Senators urge Reid, McConnell to postpone deliberations on New START treaty

November 18, 2010 07:01

The letter notes that never before in American history has the Senate seen fit to exercise its constitutional responsibility to provide quality control on treaties by effectively rubber-stamping a major strategic arms treaty in a lame-duck session.

As President Obama intensifies pressure on the United States Senate to take up and approve the New START Treaty in the brief lame-duck session that starts next week, eleven former members of the upper house of the legislature have signed a joint letter to its current Democratic and Republican leaders.  The signers, with scores of years of service on Capitol Hill between them, urge Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to decline to accede to such demands – and follow instead “the regular order” and past precedent by deferring consideration of the treaty until all those elected last week take their seats in the 112th Congress.

The signers of the letter were:  Senators Rick Santorum, Jim Talent, Bill Armstrong, Norm Coleman, Conrad Burns, Slade Gorton, Hank Brown, Malcolm Wallop, George Allen, Roger Jepsen, Don Nickles, Steve Symms and Bob Smith.

The letter notes that never before in American history has the Senate seen fit to exercise its constitutional responsibility to provide quality control on treaties by effectively rubber-stamping a major strategic arms treaty in a lame-duck session. The signers argue that the present accord should not be the basis for departing from that sensible practice, especially since New START has several major defects, including: the treaty’s potentially adverse effects on U.S. missile defenses; its lack of attention to Russia’s considerable advantage over the U.S. in tactical nuclear weapons; and the agreement’s inadequate verifiability.

The former Senators wrote that, given the implications of this treaty, it would be totally inappropriate for Senators serving in the lame-duck session to deny their recently elected successors the opportunity to properly consider and act upon a treaty that will be implemented on their watch.

Sen. Talent, who was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his time on Capitol Hill, observed:

There are serious concerns about the New START treaty that have yet to be adequately addressed by President Obama and his team.  The complex national security issues raised by this treaty – questions of missile defense, tactical nuclear weapons, and verifiability, among others – merit informed deliberation by the newly elected Senate, not a hastily deployed ‘rubber stamp’ from yesterday’s Senate.

Sen. Santorum, a former member of the Senate leadership as chairman of the Republican Conference, added:

The Framers assigned to the Senate the critical responsibility of assuring the quality of international treaties.  They felt so strongly about the Senate’s role in this regard that they wrote into the Constitution the requirement for a two-thirds majority for treaty ratification.  It would be a betrayal of that founding vision – and a serious abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duties – for a treaty with so many serious implications for the national security to be rammed through during a session when rigorous and detailed deliberation is effectively precluded.

The former Senators’ letter follows another important joint missive with a similar message to the Senate: No New START ratification debate in the lame-duck session.  It took the form of a “Memorandum for the Movement ” and was signed by 33 prominent conservatives reflecting all aspects of their community.


10 November, 2010

Hon. Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, D.C.  20510

Hon. Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, D.C.  20510

Dear Harry and Mitch:

As former members of the U.S. Senate long interested in the national security and committed to our institution’s unique responsibility for ensuring it, we wanted to express our serious concern about an initiative that would have ominous implications for both:  The idea of seeking the Senate’s advice and consent to the New START Treaty during the coming lame-duck session.

As you know, the Framers charged the Senate with a singular and momentous responsibility.  Mindful that international treaties could have the effect of impinging upon or otherwise altering the Constitution, they required that the ratification of such accords receive the Senate’s advice and consent.  So solemn was this duty, so necessary the quality-control it was meant to provide, that fully two-thirds of the Senate must concur for a treaty to be ratified.

Such arrangements were clearly designed with the expectation that Senators would take the time to deliberate carefully the approval of treaties.  That is most especially true of nuclear arms control agreements like the New START Treaty that could materially affect – and potentially seriously diminish – the common defense of this country and its people.

Never before in the history of the U.S. Senate has the ratification of a strategic arms treaty been considered in a lame-duck session.  This precedent should be followed with respect to New START, as well.

That is so for a number of reasons.  For one thing, the treaty has serious problems – for example, it would leave the Russians with far more nuclear weapons (when their ten-to-one advantage in “tactical” arms is factored in).  This accord will also impinge upon our missile defenses and it cannot be adequately verified.  And the Senate cannot possibly fulfill its responsibilities to evaluate these and other shortcomings with New START in the short time available during the coming lame-duck session.

Finally, given the far-reaching implications of the New START Treaty, it would be wholly inappropriate for a Senate made up of many members whose replacements have just been elected to deny the latter the opportunity to advise and consent to an accord that will be implemented on their watch.  It is hard to imagine, moreover, that the three Senators who are expected to be seated in time for the lame-duck session will be in a position to make informed decisions about this treaty.  That is especially the case since, in such circumstances, they would be denied the opportunity to participate in or closely study the hearings on the treaty held to date, let alone the more comprehensive and balanced reviews that are in order but have yet to be conducted.

For all these reasons, we call on you to ensure that the controversial New START Treaty is considered in accordance with the regular order in the course of the 112th Congress.


Bill Armstrong, U.S.S.                        Rick Santorum, U.S.S.

Jim Talent, U.S.S.                              Norm Coleman, U.S.S.

Conrad Burns, U.S.S.                         Slade Gorton, U.S.S.

Hank Brown, U.S.S.                           Malcolm Wallop, U.S.S.

George Allen, U.S.S.                          Roger Jepsen, U.S.S.

Don Nickles, U.S.S.                            Steve Symms, U.S.S.

Bob Smith, U.S.S.                              Wayne Allard, U.S.S.

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