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Republicans Feel Cut Out of the Loop on START

Stephen Rademaker, a former Assistant Secretary of State under the Bush administration, has published a criticism of the Senate’s handling of the new START treaty with Russia in the Washington Post, which unlike the ping-pong match started by Mitt Romney, takes issue with the process of the passage of this bill.

Senate critics of New START have largely been cut out of the process. All but two Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee formally asked the administration to share with them the negotiating record of the treaty. They were told no, even though there is precedent for accommodating such requests.

All but one of the committee Republicans wrote to Kerry in May, askinghim to invite nine witnesses to testify on the treaty. Over the courseof 11 hearings featuring more than 20 witnesses, only one of the ninewas invited to appear.

Given that these letters were signed by the senators whose votes areneeded to reach the two-thirds majority necessary for ratification, thisis a strange way to go about attracting their support.

And if treaty critics aren’t going to be accommodated on questions ofprocess, they almost certainly aren’t going to be accommodated onsubstance. This is regrettable, because while the critics have raisedserious substantive concerns, most of those concerns could be addressedin a properly crafted resolution of approval.

For example, many worry that a consultative group established under thetreaty is empowered to modify its own mandate and therefore could adoptbinding restrictions on the United States that would evade Senatereview. This could be fixed by imposing limits on that group in theSenate resolution. (…)

Frequently expressed concerns that the treaty may limit missile defenseand long-range conventional weapons could be addressed throughinterpretive declarations in the resolution.

Working with the critics to address their concerns could pave the wayfor a strong bipartisan vote in favor of New START, as happened with theChemical Weapons Convention. This would, however, require a level ofpatience and respect for dissenting views that has not been in evidence.