URGENT ACTION Needed: New START Treaty Vote

Key Senator Demands Passage of New START- Senator Richard Lugar posted this urgent message on his YouTube site. Reach your US Senators through the Senate Switchboard: (202) 224-3121.

Church and Society

Urge senators to ratify START

Reid says lame-duck session will have time for treaty

By Wayne Rhodes, Editor, Faith in Action, General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) asks you to contact your U.S. Senators and urge them to vote for ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia. Capitol Hill watchers believe a “slightly better than 50:50 chance” exists of getting a vote on START in the lame-duck session of the 111th U.S. Congress that will resume after the Thanksgiving recess.

The United Methodist Social Principles condemn “production, possession or use of nuclear weapons” (¶165C “War and Peace,” 2008 Book of Discipline).

United Methodist Social Principles condemn ‘production, possession or use of nuclear weapons.’

The United Methodist Church supports abolition of nuclear weapons:

We affirm the prophetic position of our bishops who said in their statement “In Defense of Creation”: “We say a clear and unconditional ‘NO’ to nuclear war and to any use of nuclear weapons. We conclude that nuclear deterrence is a position that cannot receive the church’s blessing (Resolution #6094, “The United Methodist Church & Peace,” 2008 Book of Resolutions).

The Obama administration, U.S. military leaders and Senate Democratic leadership have made ratification of the new START a priority. The treaty has languished in the Senate since President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed off on it in April.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the Senate will have time to consider and ratify START before adjourning.

‘Vitally important’

“It is vitally important to America’s national security for the Senate to ratify the new START treaty before Congress adjourns this year,” Reid said. “We need our inspectors back on the ground and the critical information they can provide about Russia’s nuclear capabilities. Ratification of this treaty would accomplish both.”

Reid pointed out that START has had strong bipartisan consensus in the Senate, has been endorsed by the U.S. military, diplomatic leadership, and scores of former Republican and Democratic national security officials.

Arms control advocates believe the 67 votes for ratification will be obtained if START comes to the Senate floor.

Arms control advocates believe the 67 votes for ratification will be obtained if START comes to the Senate floor. Commitments are needed from eight Republicans, though, to reach that number.

“The administration has made it clear it is prepared to work with all senators to resolve any outstanding concerns, and I appreciate in particular their efforts to reach out to Sen. [Jon] Kyl [R-Ariz.],” Reid said.

The Obama administration has begun negotiations with Republican Whip Kyl and other Republicans on conditions that would allow START to come to the Senate floor during the lame-duck session.

Negotiations on 2 issues

Reportedly, negotiations focus on two issues: The budget for the nuclear weapons complex, and assurances that the treaty does not constrain the U.S. missile defense program.

“If those two issues are resolved — and I think they can be — then I think we could move forward with the ratification to the START treaty,” said Republican Sen. John McCain, also of Arizona.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, disagreed with reports that the ranking member on the committee, Richard Lugar, R-Ind., does not support holding a lame-duck vote on the treaty. “I talked to Sen. Lugar,” Kerry said. “He is committed to doing it provided Harry Reid is committed to putting it on the floor and giving it the time.”

(Lugar, a United Methodist, speaks about START on YouTube.)

U.S. military leaders has made it clear that scheduling a vote on the ratification of START should be a top priority. The Secretary of Defense has written that START has “unanimous support” of the U.S. military. Chair of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen, testified in support of the treaty, as did the Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly. Seven of the past eight commanders of U.S. nuclear forces, including the current head, jointly wrote the Senate urging ratification.

On-site inspections halted

If the treaty is not ratified, on-site inspections by U.S. military will continue to be suspended. For more than 20 years, U.S. military has been inspecting and monitoring the Russian nuclear arsenal under the prior START negotiated by the Reagan administration. These inspections were suspended when the prior treaty expired in December last year.

The new START would resume on-site inspections. Further delay in ratification of the new treaty means inspections are postponed indefinitely.

Contrary to claims that the new START interferes with missile defense, Lt. Gen. O’Reilly testified that the new pact actually reduces previous START treaty’s constraints on developing missile defense programs in several areas.

The campaign to ratify the new START has been one of the largest addressing nuclear weapons proliferation in decades. Dozens of national and local organizations, the Ploughshares Fund, and religious organizations have played an active role in the campaign.

Faith group support

In a conference call this week to discuss progress, Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for Arms Control, Verification & Compliance, praised the work of United Methodists and other faith groups in supporting the new START. She was chief negotiator of the new treaty.

“It is our work over the next few weeks that will decide whether we see any nuclear reductions for years to come,” said Mark Harrison, GBCS director of Peace with Justice work area. He participated in the conference call with Gottemoeller.

“We still have a good chance to secure ratification of the new START treaty during the lame-duck session of Congress,” Harrison said. “But it is going to take a lot of work to persuade both Democrats and Republicans to allow floor time for the treaty.”

Harrison urged calling your Senators’ offices to tell them to support the new START. The Senate Switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.

Another important step is to write letters to the editor of daily newspapers in support of START. Jim Baird at ReThink Media (jim@rethinkmedia.org) offers material on letters to the editor about START.

Persons who are viewing the issues surrounding the new START through a Cold War lens are ignoring the fact that world has changed, according to Harrison. He said today’s concerns should be more about unrestrained nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.

Date: 11/19/2010

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