The Cable

Incoming GOP senators demand say on New START

Ten of the new incoming Republican senators Thursday are planning to demand they get a say on the New START treaty, adding ten new voices to the growing cacophony pushing for a delay in consideration of the treaty until next year.

"On Election Day we were elected to represent the constituents of our respective states in the Senate," the incoming Republicans wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), in a letter (PDF) obtained by The Cable. "Out of respect for our states' voters, we believe it would be improper for the Senate to consider the New START Treaty or any other treaty in a lame duck session prior to January 3, 2011."

The letter was organized by Senator elect Roy Blunt (R-MO) and was signed by both moderate and conservative incoming senators such as Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Rand Paul (R-KY).

The letter places yet another obstacle in the way of the Obama administration's intensive drive to hold a debate and ratification vote for the treaty this year. President Obama himself is meeting Thursday with top members of his cabinet and key senators, not including GOP treaty leader Jon Kyl, R-AZ, to devise a strategy to figure out how to take up the treaty now.

Intensive backroom negotiations between Kyl and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) yesterday still did not convince Kyl to back away from his Tuesday statement that there's just not enough time during the lame duck session of Congress to consider the treaty. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday doubled down on her call for swift consideration of the treaty as a matter of urgent national security, but GOP senators maintain they still haven't received the details of Obama's $84 billion pledge for nuclear modernization and the updated report on modernization that accompanies it.

But all that could be moot if the new GOP argument is to be that the newly elected Senators-to-be have a right to be a part of the process. That's what Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who actually voted for the treaty in committee, told The Cable on Wednesday. And that's what those senators-elect are demanding now.

In the letter, the senators-elect already indicate that they have real concerns with the treaty and might not support ratification. First of all, the letter argues that the New START treaty "would dramatically reduce the U.S. nuclear deterrent in a strategic environment that is becoming ever more perilous." That's an assertion the administration would disagree with strongly.

Secondly, the senators-elect are demanding that the administration turn over the full negotiating record between the U.S. and Russia, which they call "a critically important component in putting the pact in full context." The administration has no intention of meeting that demand.

Overall, the letter shows that if the START treaty is delayed until next year, the path toward ratification in 2011 could be a really slow, long one.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN) told The Cable Wednesday that he believes Senate GOP leadership is simply trying to avoiding debating the treaty altogether, in order to protect members from having to take what they consider a tough vote.

Tea Party groups and the Heritage Action for American lobbying organization have been targeting GOP senators, including Kyl, warning them that a vote in favor of New START could be used against them in a primary challenge in 2012.

"Every senator has an obligation in the national security interest to take a stand, to do his or her duty. Maybe people would prefer not to do his or her duty right now," Lugar said. "Sometimes when you prefer not to vote, you attempt to find reasons not to vote."

Read the full text of the letter after the break

November 18, 2010

 

Hon. Harry Reid

Majority Leader

United States Senate

Washington, D.C.  20510

 

We write as newly elected members of the United States Senate regarding a matter we believe should properly be reserved for consideration until we are duly sworn in the 112th Congress:  The so-called "New START" arms treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation.

 

On Election Day we were elected to represent the constituents of our respective states in the Senate.  One of the most important tasks of the 112th Congress will be to carefully consider measures that protect the national security of the United States.  And few matters will more directly impact our security than arms control agreements like New START that would dramatically reduce the U.S. nuclear deterrent in a strategic environment that is becoming ever more perilous.

 

Article II of the Constitution grants the Senate the exclusive responsibility of giving advice and consent to the President on treaties.  Out of respect for our states' voters, we believe it would be improper for the Senate to consider the New START Treaty or any other treaty in a lame duck session prior to January 3, 2011.  Indeed, no bilateral strategic arms reduction treaty with the Soviet Union or Russia has ever been ratified during a lame duck session.

 

Additionally we are hopeful to have the opportunity, along with the full Senate, to review the treaty's negotiating record, which is a critically important component in putting the pact in full context.

 

Proponents of this treaty, aware that today's Senate is likely to support the agreement in higher numbers without our participation, are urging the Senate to give its advice and consent in the coming weeks.  We call on you to defer action on this arms control treaty until the Senate reconvenes in the 112th Congress and we are able to participate fully and in an informed manner in its deliberations on New START.

 

Sincerely,

The Cable

The draft QDDR revealed

The State Department on Wednesday sent lawmakers a draft version of the long-awaited Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the document that is meant to chart the long-term strategy for both State and USAID.

You can take a look at the document here (PDF).

"To advance American interests and values and to lead other nations in solving shared problems in the 21st century, we must rely on our diplomats and development experts as the first face of American power. We must lead through civilian power," states the draft, which is marked NODIS (meaning no distribution) but was obtained by the Washington Post.

The document also proposes a host of new organizations to be established within the State Department: These include an Office of the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environmental Affairs, which will include a new Bureau of International Energy Affairs; a Special Coordinator for Sanctions and Illicit Finance; and an Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, which would include a new Bureau for Crisis and Conflict Operations. The current Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) would be incorporated into this bureau.

The document also proposes to "Empower and hold accountable Chiefs of Mission as CEOs of multi-agency missions and engage them in high-level interagency decision-making in Washington."

Interestingly, the document proposes to establish a joint planning and budgeting process between the State Department and the Defense Department in areas where the two institutions work together, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The document notes that the government is also "examin[ing] the creation of a unified National Security Budget." The idea of combining Defense and State Department funding into one pool has been proposed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before, but could face resistance on Capitol Hill.

As for USAID, in addition to increased control over its own budgeting and policy planning, the development agency will see its mid-level hires triple and would assume leadership and accountability for the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative right away, as well as eventually assuming control of the Global Health Initiative, according to the draft document.

The proposal would also expand the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), which places experts in crisis countries such as Afghanistan to help local institutions.

Todd Shelton, senior director of policy at InterAction, a coalition of humanitarian organizations, told the Washington Post that "[t]he tension inherent in the draft is the same one that has been playing out over the past 14 months of the QDDR process -- namely how to 'Build USAID as the World's Premier Development Agency' on the one hand, and integrate both the diplomatic and development components into what is being called 'civilian power' on the other."

"From a development expert perspective, the QDDR PowerPoint appears to give with one hand but take away with the other," Shelton said. "It talks about building USAID's capacity in a variety of ways. For example, it formally recognizes the new budget office at USAID, but then makes clear its recommendations will be subject to review and final approval by the Deputy Secretary of State. USAID also will have the lead in formulating the development component of 'integrated strategies' referred to in the draft but the chief of mission at an embassy will have the final say on the strategy, which forms the basis for budget requests."