In March 2002, then-chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joe Biden (D-Del.) and then-Ranking Member Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) penned a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell insisting that any arms control agreement reached with Russia go through the proper channel: the upper chamber of Congress.
The senators were reacting to Powell’s admission that President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin were diligently crunching away at a pact to reduce nuclear stockpiles.
“With the exception of the SALT I agreement, every significant arms control agreement during the past three decades has been transmitted to the Senate pursuant to the Treaty Clause of the Constitution,” Biden and Helms wrote. “We see no reason whatsoever to alter this practice.”
The pair concluded “no constitutional alternative exists to transmittal of the concluded agreement to the Senate for its advice and consent.”
Under the Constitution, the president can only negotiate or pull out of a treaty without approval from the Senate. Any new agreement needs to go through the upper chamber.
After President Obama’s vow today to unilaterally pursue new arms reductions and forge some sort of agreement with Russia in the process, GOP senators fired off a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry warning that, just like the current vice president cautioned more than a decade ago, the administration is poised to run afoul of the Constitution.
“Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons — no matter how distant that dream may be,” Obama said at a thinly attended speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany.
He hailed 2010′s New START treaty, arm-twisted out of a skeptical Senate with promises to modernize the nuclear arsenal that have never been kept, as putting the U.S. and Russia “on track to cut American and Russian deployed nuclear warheads to their lowest levels since the 1950s.”
“But we have more work to do. So today, I’m announcing additional steps forward. After a comprehensive review, I’ve determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third. And I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures,” Obama said.
With the cold postures exhibited by the two leaders toward each other at this week’s G8 summit, that’s an awfully optimistic policy push.
“At the same time, we’ll work with our NATO allies to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical weapons in Europe. And we can forge a new international framework for peaceful nuclear power, and reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking,” continued the president hellbent on the Global Zero nuclear-elimination initiative.
“These are steps we can take to create a world of peace with justice.”
GOP Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Orrin Hatch (Utah), John Hoeven (N.D.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), James Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kansas), Tim Scott (S.C.), and Roger Wicker (Miss.) told Kerry they wanted to “outline our concerns and express our interest in working with the administration to limit the spread of weapons of mass destruction and to keep Americans safe.”
“The first issue we will be watching closely as the Senate considers these nominations relates to Russia’s compliance with its arms control commitments to the United States. Specifically, we will seek assurances from the administration that Russia is in compliance with its nuclear arms control agreements and obligations, including the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs) agreed to by President George H.W. Bush and President Boris Yeltsin, and its Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty obligations as the United States defines those obligations,” the senators wrote. “We note the recent amendment adopted by the House Armed Services Committee which states that Russia is ‘in active noncompliance with existing nuclear arms obligations.’”
“The president’s desire to negotiate a new round of arms control with the Russians, while Russia is cheating on a major existing nuclear arms control treaty, strains credulity,” House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said today. “I have been urging the president through classified and unclassified correspondence to take seriously these violations by Russia since last year, but the president has ignored these concerns.”