Republicans behaving badly, threatening U.S. nuclear security

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Nuke Arizona's other twin embarrassment Senator Obstruction, Jon Kyl, has been blocking ratification of a new START treaty — you know, the one Saint Ronnie Reagan signed to reduce nuclear arsenals – which the Pentagon would like to have confirmed so that it can get back to its inspection regime of the old Soviet nuclear arsenal which was suspended pending ratification of this new START treaty.

Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly reports:

The Obama administration and several key senators are still anxious to ratify the New START nuclear treaty during the lame-duck session. They'll need 67 votes, and by all accounts, they're close.

The biggest obstacle at this point appears to be Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who, oddly enough, has said he'll try to kill the treaty unless the White House agrees to spend more money on the U.S. nuclear arsenal. (Usually, conservative lawmakers threaten to kill measures to ensure less spending, not more.)

Yesterday, the White House moved to satisfy Kyl's concerns, and hopefully, bring New START closer to ratification.

In a last-minute bid to save a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, the Obama administration has offered to spend $4 billion more over five years on the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, congressional sources said Friday.

President Obama has made passage of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, one of his top priorities for the lame-duck session starting next week. Officials worry that the pact could face long delays, or even fail, if it is put off until next year, when the Democrats' Senate majority will shrink.

Republicans have conditioned their support for the treaty on a big budget increase to fix up the country's aging weapons-production facilities.

 Administration officials reportedly visited individually with skeptical Republican senators yesterday, outlining the commitment of $4.1 billion in funding. The AP added, "In a sign of the urgency of the administration's pitch, government officials traveled to Kyl's home state of Arizona to brief him on the proposal, the aide said."

That should at least make Kyl feel important.

While we wait, it's been almost a year since U.S. inspectors lost the ability to keep tabs on Russian nukes. The Pentagon is anxious to have the treaty ratified so checks can be reinstated — this is the first time in 15 years we've lost the ability to inspect Russian long-range nuclear bases — but Senate Republicans still aren't in any hurry.

Part of the problem has to do with basic ignorance. Jon Kyl conceded in August that he just assumed, falsely, that nuclear-site inspections were continuing while he held up New START. In other words, he just didn't know what he was talking about.

The BFF of Arizona's other twin embarrassment, Senator McNasty, and part of the Three Stooges act with Sen. Joe Lieberman — Sen. Lindsey Graham told host Christine Amanpour on ABC’s This Week Sunday that he could not support the treaty “in its current condition” because of “two obstacles” — nuclear modernization and missile defense. Graham Won’t Vote For The New START Treaty Because Of ‘Stumbling Blocks’ That Don’t Exist:

President Obama has made ratification of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia a top priority for the upcoming lame duck session of Congress, saying the treaty is “essential to the country’s national security.” An extension of the original treaty negotiatied by President Ronald Reagan, the START treaty responsibly reduces U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals by one-fourth. It has secured the “unanimous support of America’s military leadership,” thirty former Republican and Democratic national security officials, and almost all of the 67 votes needed for ratification in the Senate.

Despite the overwhelming support, a “tiny fringe” of right-wing “experts” [sic] are ginning up myths about the treaty. One such mouthpiece is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

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The only problem with Graham’s “stumbling blocks” is that they don’t actually exist. While “security experts” [sic] like Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and former Bush administration Ambassador John Bolton insist that Obama is “risking our security” by supposedly not focusing on modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal, the actual rocket scientists of an independent defense advisory panel determined that not only are the weapons completely reliable, but that our current “nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in effectiveness.” To make sure this remains the case, the Obama administration devoted $7 billion to maintain the nuclear-weapons stockpile — $600 million more than Congress approved last year and 10 percent more than what the Bush administration spent.

As for START’s impact on missile defense, Director of the Missile Defense Agency Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly made it clear that the new treaty “has no constraints on current and future components of the Ballistic Missile Defense System,” and that it actually “reduces” several limitations on cost-effective testing. Thus, given Graham’s criteria for support, treaty proponents should expect his vote.

But regardless of the actual facts, Graham and his Republican comrades seem intent on lobbing unfounded myths to obstruct the treaty’s passage.

You can bet that Senator McNasty will join his twin embarrassment Senator Obstruction, and his BFF and fellow Stooge Lindsey Graham in voting against this new START treaty.

UPDATE: See today's guest op/ed in the Washington Post by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Clinton and Gates: Why the Senate should ratify New START:

Here is what's at stake:

New START will advance critical national security objectives: Reducing the number of deployed nuclear weapons while retaining a safe and effective deterrent; providing direct insight into Russia's nuclear arsenal; and creating a more stable, predictable and cooperative relationship between the world's two leading nuclear powers.

It will put in place an effective verification regime to track each side's progress in reducing its arsenal to 1,550 strategic warheads. We will be able to count the number of deployed strategic weapons more accurately, because we will exchange more data on weapons and their movement than in the past. We will also conduct 18 short-notice inspections of Russian nuclear forces each year, including checking warheads on individual missiles.

New START will also set the stage for future arms reductions, including negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons. It will help solidify the "reset" of U.S. relations with Russia, which has allowed us to cooperate in pursuit of our strategic interests.

That's what the treaty will do. Here's what it will not do:

It will not limit our ability to develop and deploy the most effective missile defenses to protect America's forces and territory, and to enhance the security of our allies and partners. This administration is committed to sustaining and improving our missile defense capabilities and has proposed spending nearly $10 billion in fiscal 2011 to do so.

It will not restrict our ability to modernize our nuclear forces. On the contrary, the United States will continue to maintain a robust nuclear deterrent based on our "triad" of delivery systems: intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers for nuclear armaments. To sustain and modernize these systems, the administration has proposed spending well over $100 billion during the next decade.

Furthermore, the treaty permits us to make investments as needed to maintain a secure and effective nuclear stockpile. The administration has proposed spending $7 billion for this purpose in the current fiscal year – a nearly 10 percent increase – and more than $80 billion to modernize our nuclear weapons complex over the next decade, including a major life-extension program for current warheads. In all, the administration proposes spending more than $180 billion on the infrastructure that sustains our nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them – a substantial investment in the credibility and efficacy of America's nuclear deterrent.

Finally, New START will not constrain our ability to develop and deploy the most effective conventional capabilities possible, including strike systems that could potentially hit a target anywhere on the globe in less than an hour.

The New START Treaty deserves prompt ratification. Our national security depends on it.

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