STATEMENT: Senate Has Time for Both New START and National Defense Authorization Act
Washington, D.C.— Winnie Stachelberg, Senior Vice President for External Affairs, and Ken Gude, Managing Director of the National Security and International Policy Program at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement today:
"Ratifying New START and passing the defense authorization bill repealing "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" are critical to our national security and military preparedness and the Senate should stay in session to do both. There is time for the Senate to both ratify the New START treaty and pass the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) with a provision to repeal DADT ("Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"). But to do so the Senate must not stick to artificial deadlines. The American people and our troops are showing up to work the week before Christmas, if need be; so should the Senate.
The Senate appears likely tonight to take up the defense authorization bill, which includes language that repeals "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Republicans, even those who support DADT’s repeal, have threatened to fillibuster if there is not an open amendment process. However, a completely open amendment process would allow Senate Republicans to endlessly delay. Instead, Majority Leader Harry Reid should allow amendments over a reasonable time period and should be prepared to convene for votes over the weekend if he must. This would provide senators with enough time to debate the provision and offer amendments. This bill is essential for our troops and has been passed every year for the last 50 years.
Early next week the Senate should take up the New START treaty. Sen. Jon Kyl has insisted that the treaty will take two weeks of the Senate’s time. This is nonsense. The original START treaty, which was the first of its kind and introduced a whole slew of technical monitoring and verification procedures took just five days of Senate floor time. The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty negotiated by President George W. Bush took just two days of floor time. Since the New START treaty entails modest reductions that do not require a change in U.S. nuclear force posture and merely updates and extends verification measures, there is more than enough time for senators to debate and offer amendments to the treaty before addressing tax cut legislation—which will not be ready for the Senate floor until late next week.
Furthermore, there is little incentive for Republicans to drag out the ratification of New START. Should Republicans delay the START treaty they would also be delaying votes on the tax cut legislation and omnibus bill and would therefore only be delaying their own Christmas vacation.
However, should the timing on either matter slip, it is no particular hardship for the Senate to stay for the week of December 20 to get their jobs done. The American people and our troops are working that week; so should the Senate."