Americans always deserve a fully transparent and deliberative legislative process. The current Congress has thoroughly abused Senate and House rules. Furthermore, Congress breached the trust of the American people by passing Obamacare, which the American people vigorously opposed. Let us all hope that the ratification of the new START treaty follows a different path. Americans ought to have an opportunity to participate in the ratification debate, including open Congressional hearings, amendments and extended debate.
Many Americans are rightly concerned the new START treaty will undermine our national security and, in the process, reject Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy principle of “Peace through Strength.” Thanks to the foresight of our Founding Fathers, the substance of the treaty will be thoroughly debated. Article 3, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states:
He [the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;
The new START treaty will not become the law of the land unless 67 senators vote in favor of the treaty. Our Constitution reserves a two-thirds requirement for only the most consequential of actions: impeachment, veto overrides, constitutional amendments, presidential succession, and treaties.
The Founders clearly understood that entering into a treaty with a foreign nation was an extraordinary circumstance deserving of the utmost scrutiny. As such, the process for ratifying a treaty differs significantly from the regular legislative process. Understanding the process, as well as the substance, is essential when Americans participate in ratification process.
The START treaty is likely to follow the below timeline:
- President signed the treaty (April 8, 2010);
- Treaty and supporting documents submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (expected in early May);
- Committee begins consideration of the treaty (mid-May);
- Committee reports the treaty to the full Senate – favorably, unfavorably or without action (June or July);
- Treaty is placed on the Senate’s Executive Calendar;
- Senate will move into Executive Session;
- Senate can amend the actual text of the treaty;
- Senate will then consider and vote on a resolution of ratification – the formal mechanism by which it provides “advice and consent” to the President; and finally,
- If 67 senators vote in favor of the resolution, the treaty may be exchanged with the Russian Federation and takes on the force of law as a ratified treaty.
Before Americans can feel like members of the Foreign Relations Committee have addressed their concerns, the Committee must conduct a transparent hearing process. Treaty opponents should be given equal time to make the case against ratification. Conservatives should use every procedure in the Senate rulebook to slow walk the process, so the American people have time to understand the treaty and the potential consequences of its ratification.
The nature of the treaty ratification process is very complex, even for the Senate. There are no expedited procedures in the Senate for treaty ratification, meaning full Senate consideration of a treaty could take more than a month. If proponents abuse the spirit of the rules and try to force the treaty through the Senate, the American people should push back.
The START treaty could severely undermine missile defense, national security interests and American sovereignty. Any attempt to rush process or avoid discussing important details of the treaty should be resisted by all Senators who value the idea of maintaining a strong national defense to preserve America’s relative peace in the nuclear era.
The bottom line is that this process needs to be transparent and far different from the strong arm tactics used to pass the President’s health care bill. Americans deserve to know if this treaty is good or bad for the country. Conservatives need assurances that this treaty will not weaken the framework and infrastructure President Obama’s predecessors put in place to keep America safe.