This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Sen. Jon Kyl's objections notwithstanding, the U.S. Senate should bring the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia to a vote in the lame duck session. To delay that vote until after the new Congress convenes next year would only postpone, and perhaps jeopardize, ratification of a good treaty.
The Arizona senator is the Republicans' lead negotiator on ratification of the treaty, which President Obama signed last spring. Kyl claims that issues that surround ratification, particularly the Obama administration's financial commitment to modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, are too complex to be worked out in the time remaining on the Senate's calendar this year.
We disagree. The treaty has received numerous Senate hearings during the past six months and the White House has committed to providing the funding to modernize the arsenal, as Sen. Kyl has asked. We believe it is in the nation's security interest for the White House and Senate Republicans to strike a deal and pave the way to ratification.
Delay to next year, by contrast, would accomplish little of substance. What's more, it could jeopardize ratification as new members of the Senate would have to be brought up to speed on the treaty and its context in the complex world of nuclear arms control. Delay always risks that the treaty might not be ratified.
Because treaties require a two-thirds majority of the Senate 67 votes this must be a bipartisan decision in any case. That means that all 58 Democrats in the current Senate plus at least nine Republicans must vote to ratify the treaty. Next year, ratification would require 14 Republican votes.
True, a delay would give Republicans stronger bargaining power. But on the merits of the treaty, there is general bipartisan agreement for ratification. On the dispute over funding for modernizing the nuclear arsenal, which is not a provision of the treaty itself, the Obama administration has gone so far as to include an extra $4 billion over the next five years to satisfy Republican demands.
The heart of the treaty would commit the two nations to reducing their strategic arsenals to 1,550 warheads. That limit is 74 percent lower than the 1991 START treaty and 30 percent lower than the 2002 Moscow treaty signed by President George W. Bush. Fewer warheads mean fewer chances for accidents. Until the treaty is ratified, the United States will have no rights to inspect the Russian arsenal.
There's no good reason to delay a ratification vote.