While President Barack Obama was telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that New START would be one of his top priorities in the upcoming lame duck Congress his aides were busy spreading bags of money around Friday trying to buy votes. According to anonymous sources of The Washington Post, Obama administration official visited Capitol Hill offices, including Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) offering $4.1 billion in new funding for nuclear maintenance.
This is terrible public policy. If funds are needed for the most vital and sensitive military capability in the military’s arsenal they should be provided without conditions – period. Our nuclear arsenal either needs this money or it doesn’t. To bargain with the nation’s security is an antithesis of the appropriate behavior of a commander-in-chief. It would demonstrate the lack of the President’s real commitment to his responsibility as the steward of America’s nuclear arsenal. Conditioning funding for nuclear program on New START is playing politics with our national security.
Worse, there is no way to hold President Obama accountable on a deal. Congress, not the White House, must still pass annual budgets. If proponents of the $4 billion want a clear demonstration of administration commitment before a vote on New START they would be foolish not to demand the passage of the 2012 budget first. Instead, the White House has demanded a vote in Lame Duck – before even the 2011 budget is approved.
The reality is that New START is just bad for national security. New START imposes restrictions on U.S. missile defense options in at least five areas. Paragraph 9 of the Preamble establishes a bias against missile defense. Paragraph 3 of Article V prohibits conversion of offensive strategic missile launchers to launchers of defensive interceptors. Article XII and Part Six of the Protocol create an implementing body, called the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), and gives it a broad mandate which could permit it to impose additional restrictions on the U.S. missile defense program. Article IX, Part Seven of the Protocol and the Annex on Telemetric Information to the Protocol could require the U.S. to share sensitive telemetric information from missile defense tests. The treaty also places limits on strategic target missiles and their launchers used in missile defense tests. The Senate should deliberate carefully on these restrictions and their implications for long-term comprehensive missile defense before rushing to a vote. These issues were not adequately addressed during committee hearings on the treaty.
Ratifying New START in Lame Duck would be clear statement that Congress is only interested in business as usual and that horse-trading is more important than doing the people’s business. Those on both sides of the issue should agree that it is in the national interest for the Senate to deliberate and vote on this critical issue in an open and deliberate manner without the taint of negotiating America’s national security in the backroom.