The fight over extending Bush-era tax cuts has been grabbing all the headlines lately, but there's another must-do item on the lame-duck Congress' agenda that requires attention before the session ends: Senate ratification of the arms-control agreement with Russia known as the New Start treaty.
Before last month's mid-term election, securing the required 67 votes in the Senate for this important deal seemed like a cinch. It had won support from a wide array of arms control experts from both parties, U.S. allies in Europe and elsewhere (including those in Eastern Europe that don't trust Russia), every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and six former secretaries of State and five former secretaries of Defense. Among others.
But after the elections gave Republicans a boost, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., the GOP's point man on the issue, suddenly balked. There wasn't enough time left in this Congress, he claimed, to give the treaty the thorough consideration it required.
Nonsense. The treaty has been the subject of endless briefings on Capitol Hill and at least 21 hearings in the Senate. No more hearings are needed. Mr. Kyl himself has been courted and fawned over by the administration for months, with the White House counting 29 separate meetings, phone calls, briefings or letters involving the Arizona senator.
More to the point, no serious criticism has been raised about the contents of the treaty throughout this prolonged process. On the contrary, the treaty is deemed vital to national security and to moving closer to the goal of reducing the threat of nuclear war between the two countries with the largest strategic inventories. Most important, the treaty reduces strategic warheads by 450, leaving each side 1,550, keeping the momentum going for the encouraging nuclear arms-reduction process that began under Ronald Reagan.
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