ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports:
Thirty-five House Democrats have signed onto a letter to the Senate majority and minority leaders, calling on the upper chamber to vote to ratify the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) before the end of the 111th Congress.
Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., released the letter today, and in a statement blames Senate Republicans for stalling a vote on START, a bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev last April.
“By stopping any debate on START, Senate Republicans have stopped standing up for national security, stopped strengthening the U.S.-Russia partnership to block an Iranian nuclear bomb, and stopped decades of American leadership on nuclear security,” Markey, the founder and co-chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation, states. “It’s time for Senate Republicans to stop the obstruction and start the debate to ratify the New START now.”
Still, the Senate is unlikely to have the votes to approve the treaty. The GOP’s second-ranking Senate leader, Minority Whip Jon Kyl, has demanded two weeks of debate on the floor before clearing the way for the body to vote on ratification.
“New START is a major step forward and will serve as a key bridge toward reaching the goal of a nuclear weapon-free world,’ Markey said. “The United States must lead the way in the effort to reduce the global stockpile of nuclear weapons.”
If ratified, the treaty would limit Russia’s nuclear arsenal to 1550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed delivery vehicles.
“The treaty will enable us to ‘Trust, but verify,’” the group of Democrats write, referencing a phrase used by President Ronald Reagan. “New START would establish and updated information exchange system and enhanced on-site inspections that would provide more information on the status of Russian strategic forces than was available under the original START accord. Ratification of New START is the only way to end the ‘verification gap’ that has emerged since START I expired last year.”
Zero Republican members of the House of Representatives signed onto the letter.
“According to our nation’s military and intelligence leadership and most prominent former senior national security officials from Republican and Democratic administrations, New START is a no-brainer,” the letter reads. “They support it because it will make the U.S. safer. We respectfully urge the Senate to schedule time to debate and vote to provide its advice and consent for ratification of New START without delay.
Since signing the treaty April 8, President Obama has regularly pushed for the Senate to act, saying there is “no higher security priority” facing the United States. Obama’s chances get worse in the next Congress when the Democrats’ majority in the Senate shrinks by six seats, a big blow to the treaty’s possible ratification since 67 votes are needed in the Senate to pass it.
“In the absence of START, without the new START treaty being ratified by the Senate, we do not have a verification mechanism to ensure that we know what the Russians are doing, and they don't know what we're doing. And when you have uncertainty in the area of nuclear weapons, that's a much more dangerous world to live in,” President Obama said from the Oval Office earlier this month at a photo op with Colin Powell.“It is important for us to make sure that we complete the evaluation process, we finish the debate and we go ahead and finish this up before the end of the year.”
Yesterday, former President George H.W. Bush, may have issued the shortest press release in the history of U.S. politics when he pushed the Senate to ratify the treaty.
“I urge the United States Senate to ratify the START treaty,” the full statement from Bush read.