Republican Senators have been vigorously complaining that they need as much as two weeks or double or even triple the time taken on previous arms control treaties to debate the New START treaty. They have insisted they need all this time because they need ample time to submit amendments to the treaty, despite the fact that treaties, for all intents and purposes, cannot be amended. For the last two days the START treaty has been before the Senate, yet Republican Senators have still not offered a single amendment. Not one.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA), who has been shepherding the debate on the Senate floor, has become visibly frustrated by the delay tactics. Kerry has made clear that Senate Democrats are ready to vote for the treaty and to vote on amendments. He has repeatedly asked for Republican Senators to come forward and offer amendments. Here is a snapshot of Senator Kerry throughout the day yesterday asking Republicans to bring forth their amendments and growing increasingly outraged at their stalling.
10:30 am: “We don’t have any amendments, we are prepared to vote.”
11:30 am: “The sooner we can get to some of these amendments… we can discover if something is a flaw or not a flaw.”
11:45 am: “We are now almost at lunch time and we don’t have an amendment.”
1:25 pm: “I would ask the senator if he has an amendment that he is prepared to offer?”
2:00 pm: “They say we don’t have time, who haven’t brought an amendment to the floor. I clearly smell the self-fulfilling prophecy strategy going on here.”
3:30 pm: “They just delay, delay, and delay… We’ve been here for a day and we still haven’t had an amendment.”
The delay tactics in many ways represent business as usual in the senate. As the Progress Report explained, Senate Republicans “intent on blocking any Democratic priority…unleashed a litany of superficial excuses to prevent consideration of these particular measures.” Yesterday Vice President Biden in an interview with Andrea Mitchell called out Senate Republicans and demanded they drop their delay tactics.
Do not let — do not stand in the way of the nation’s best interests. Let the Senate vote. Overwhelming, the American people support the START Treaty. Overwhelmingly, the United States Senate supports the START Treaty. It’s clearly in our national interests. Every former national security adviser, secretary of Defense, the secretary of State on the Republican Party from George Shultz to Colin Powell thinks it’s essential we pass this treaty. Get out of the way. There’s too much at stake for America’s national security. And don’t tell me about Christmas. I understand Christmas. I have been a senator for a long time. I’ve been there many years where we go right up to Christmas. There’s 10 days between now and Christmas. I hope I don’t get in the way of your Christmas shopping, but this is the nation’s business. This is the national security that’s at stake. Act. Act.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) this morning backed Kerry and called for his Republican colleagues to stop delaying and to bring their amendments to the floor. He said:
I think we’re at a point in time where it’s time for amendments to be offered, and I would encourage people on our side of the aisle in particular if they have amendments to offer them.