December 19, 2010

Chairman Kerry on New START: “Why the Delay?”

Washington, D.C. – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) today responded on the Senate floor to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) comments about rushing the New START Treaty before Christmas. The Senate has been considering the treaty for over seven months, held over 20 hearings, and received answers to more than 900 formal questions that it submitted to the Obama administration.
 
Highlights from the unofficial transcript of Chairman Kerry’s remarks:
 
“I want to address particularly the notion about [needing] more time on this treaty. … We are looking at having more days of debate on this treaty than START I, START II, and the Moscow Treaty all put together.”
 
“The president said, ‘Regardless of Russia's actions…as long as I am President and as long as the Congress provides the necessary funding, the United States will continue to develop and deploy effective missile defense to protect the United States.’ I really would hope our colleagues would give credence to the secretary of defense, secretary of state, the military, the president of the United States.”
 
‘[W]e have bent over backwards to meet the concerns of our colleagues in a completely nonpolitical, apolitical, totally bipartisan, substantive way that meets the security concerns of the country. I hope we can find reciprocity with respect to that kind of action here in the United States Senate.”
 
The full text of the unofficial transcript:
 
Mr. Kerry: Mr. President, let me begin very quickly. First of all, I want to say I thank the senator from Idaho for his amendment, which -- and I appreciate the thought that he has put into the consideration of this treaty and his role on the Foreign Relations Committee and the work he has done over the four, and this is now the fifth, day of our consideration of this treaty on the floor of the senate.
 
The amendment that the Senate proposes to put into the treaty is an amendment to the preamble. So we have the same problem that we had yesterday, I just say that up front. The substance of what he is trying to put forward, we have a great agreement with in terms of the need to deal with tactical nuclear weapons. We'll say more about that afterwards.
 
If the senator were willing to, I think we can find a way to incorporate into the resolution ratification a genuine, meaningful, adequate statement with respect to this linkage between tactical nuclear weapons and overall strategic understanding. I'd like to do that, but I know the senator wants to proceed with this amendment first. I just want him to have that understanding that we're prepared to say something important and I think substantive about tactical nuclear weapons here.
 
Now, I'd like to just use a couple of minutes, if I may, to respond to comments -- a couple of comments made this morning by the minority leader on one of the morning television shows.
 
First of all, obviously, I regret that he will not support the treaty itself, but we had an understanding that was probably going to be the case. It's not a surprise. But I find it disappointing given that the entire Republican foreign policy national security experienced statesmen group that are sort of emeritus for our nation today -- former Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of State Jim Baker. I mean you run the list of all of the former secretaries of state on the Republican side -- former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice -- they all support this treaty. The military supports this treaty. The leader of the Strategic Command, current and the past former seven, support this treaty. The national intelligence treaty supports this treaty.
 
I really hope that in these waning days of this session, as we approach this holiday season, which is so focused on the concept of renewal and hope and peace, that we could find the ability in the United States Senate to embrace in a bipartisan way the security interests of our country, but I want to address particularly the notion about more time on this treaty.
 
We are now in the fifth day of this treaty. Let's debate today. Even if we had a cloture filing tonight or something, you would still have two days more of debate before that ripens and you vote on it, after which you then have 30 hours of debate, providing that it would pass. So we're looking at the prospect of having more days of debate on this treaty, a simple, simple building block on top of the START I Treaty. We are looking at having more days of debate on this treaty than START I, START II, and the Moscow Treaty all put together. So I think the United States Senate -- which is appropriate -- has time to focus on this treaty. And I thought we had a good debate yesterday.
 
The president said, “Regardless of Russia's actions, as long as I am president and as long as the Congress provides the necessary funding, the United States will continue to develop and deploy effective missile defense to protect the United States.” I really would hope our colleagues would give credence to the secretary of defense, secretary of state, the military, the president of the United States, and to the budget, because the chairman of the Appropriations Committee informed me yesterday they have fully funded the modernization once again in the CR, just as we did in the previous CR, as a sign of good faith of the direction we're going in. So all I can say is we have bent over backwards to meet the concerns of our colleagues in a completely nonpolitical, apolitical, totally bipartisan, substantive way that meets the security concerns of the country. I hope we can find reciprocity with respect to that kind of action here in the United States Senate. 

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