Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry formally noticed members of his panel that the Committee would hold a mark-up on September 16th of the strategic arms reduction treaty negotiated by the Obama administration with the Russians. Remarkably, the resolution of ratification that he proposes to have his colleagues consider does not show a single Republican co-sponsor.
Evidently, Sen. Kerry has such confidence that his ranking member, Sen. Richard Lugar, will join him in rubber-stamping the so-called “New START” treaty that he saw no need even to run the resolution past him. It remains to be seen whether this demeaning treatment will mean that all the Foreign Relations Committee Republican members will refuse to proceed with the Chairman’s evident desire to blow the treaty through: on the basis of a skewed hearing record, without all of the needed background information and with negligible debate.
Kerry’s behavior is puzzling, not just because it is inconsistent with the traditions of comity and courtesy practiced assiduously by the Senate’s Dick Lugars. It is also transparently counterproductive. After all, when the Chairman postponed the mark-up from early August to mid-September, it was widely understood within the Senate that he was anxious to show that the treaty enjoyed more bipartisan support than just that pledged early on by Sen. Lugar. At present, he doesn’t even have his ranking member as a sponsor.
Republicans have other reasons for balking at the legislative bum’s rush John Kerry clearly has in mind for them in connection with New START. The chairman has rejected requests from a number of his colleagues for more balance than the 10:1 advantage in the testimony taken from supporters over that provided by the two critics allowed to appear.
In addition, the administration has refused to honor requests from a number of Senators for the negotiating record, supplying only a seven-page, classified summary of a portion of the negotiations dealing with missile defense. It has also failed to supply all of the answers to the many questions legislators have submitted for the record.
Then, there is the natty problem that neither the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees have provided their reports on the military and verification implications of the treaty. So much for due diligence and serious oversight.
In other words, John Kerry is applying the old adage: Don’t bother me with the details. For the moment, at least, he has sufficient votes from Democrats alone to ensure passage.
The question is:
Will (1) Kerry’s characteristically high-handed mistreatment of his GOP colleagues, (2) his indifference to legitimate requests for information from members who take seriously their constitutional responsibility to serve as real quality control officers on whatever treaties the executive branch serves up and (3) his contemptuous treatment of Dick Lugar translate into further, and possibly fatal, problems for Barack Obama’s defective New START Treaty and his larger denuclearization agenda?