They're not lawmakers yet, but incoming Senate Republicans want a say on President Obama's New START treaty with Russia.
This morning, Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin posted a letter from 10 incoming Republican senators to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. To the White House's likely chagrin, the letter supported the sentiment of Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl: The senators demanded a delay on the vote for the nuclear arms-reduction agreement until the next Congress, when they'll get to weigh in as members of the Senate. "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," they wrote. The letter, which was organized by Sen. Roy Blunt, contained signatures from Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Ron Johnson and Sen. Rand Paul among others.
Why is it "improper" to consider the treaty now? The Senators said they have concerns with the treaty and might not vote for ratification in the new year. They're worried that the New START treaty "would dramatically reduce the U.S. nuclear deterrent in a strategic environment that is becoming more perilous." They also want the administration to produce the entire record of negotiations between the U.S. and Russia -- something the White House probably won't do.
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 story at The Cable.