White House criticizes Republicans over treaty delay
On Wednesday the Senate voted 66-32 to begin debate on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, with a possibile final vote on Thursday.
This comes after White House press secretary Robert Gibbs attacked Senate Republicans for delaying ratification of the new START nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia. Republicans have called to slow down ratification efforts so they might learn more about the treaty.
Obama has made ratification of the treaty a top priority in foreign policy. Some Republican lawmakers argue that there is not enough time to ratify the treaty before the end of the year. There are also fears that they could attempt to delay its approval by pushing it into next year.
Earlier, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid assured the press that the treaty has secured the 67 votes needed for ratification and that the Senate would begin debating the treaty as soon as it finalizes the bill on tax cuts.
According to Ivan Eland from the Independent Institute based in Washington DC, the treaty has simply fallen victim to political bargaining on Capitol Hill.
“The Republicans have been dragging their feet,” he said. “What they have basically been saying, I think, is that they want to up the price of the treaty, see what they can get.”
”Of course, Obama has to give them something because he is up against the wall,” Eland added. “If the treaty gets postponed until the new session of Congress, more Republicans will take office after the election results, then, of course, he will have even more trouble ratifying it, it will be kicked way down the road. So, I think he has got to do it, now or never.”
Tom Collina from the Arms Control Association believes that the treaty needs to be passed, as it is vital to both countries’ national security.
“It is a key part of the US-Russian relationship and we are building that relationship and it is important for every national security issue facing both countries from stopping the spread of nuclear weapons to countries like Iran and also to building greater cooperation to prevent terrorist acquisition of nuclear weapons,” he said. “It is a huge part of the reset in US –Russia relations and really has to get passed this year.”