On Thursday, twenty-two sitting U.S. senators sent a letter to the Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) demanding their constitutionally ordained power to provide advice and consent on the New START treaty. They believe the current actions of the Senate Democratic leadership and the White House are undermining this important constitutional function of the Senate:
We take the advice and consent powers granted to the Senate by the founding fathers very seriously. Rushing a matter of this magnitude through the Senate is not what they had in mind when they established this very important check on the executive branch.
The senators note that despite multiple requests, the Obama administration has still refused to provide the negotiating record to the Senate. Without these important documents, the Senate is unable to fully understand the implications of the treaty. This Administration’s denial is tantamount to refusing the Senate an honest debate and undermines the Senate’s role in providing advice and consent. For many on the Left, however, the lack of debate is not a problem, since the virtues of arms control are assumed and any debate of New START’s implications on broader U.S. security is viewed as divisive partisanship. But Senators and the American people should not accept this misunderstanding of the Senate’s function. Policy arguments are not disruptive to the legislative process; informed debate is essential to deliberation.
At this point, however, even if the negotiating record is provided, these 22 Senators believe there is insufficient time in the “lame duck” session to fully consider the terms and possible amendments to the treaty before a vote on ratification. At stake is not just the future of the New START treaty, but the broader understanding of the Senate’s “advice and consent” role in making treaties.