Clinton: GOP Must Go Past Politics, Ratify START

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on "Face the Nation," Nov. 21, 2010. CBS

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Republicans in the Senate to ratify a new nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, calling it in the national security interests of the United States and its allies.

Republicans have said a Senate vote on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (or START) should be delayed, while President Barack Obama has asked that the vote be taken up during Congress' lame-duck session.

This weekend Mr. Obama suggested that some GOP senators were playing politics with national security, and cautioned that no agreement with Moscow would further delay and jeopardize America's ability to inspect Russia's nuclear arsenal.

"If the Senate doesn't act this year - after six months, 18 hearings and nearly a thousand questions answered - it would have to start over from scratch in January," the president said.

With Republicans stalling in the Senate, CBS News' chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer wondered if Mr. Obama risks being embarrassed on the world stage by failing the get an arms treaty ratified, as he failed in locking down a trade deal with South Korea during his recent Asia Summit.

"I don't think those are two analogous situations," Secretary Clinton said on "Face the Nation." "I mean, the president didn't finalize a deal in Korea because he was not satisfied that the deal was in the best interests of America, and that's what a president is supposed to do, and so he did the right thing. Obviously, he is continuing to negotiate to get a deal that is in the interests of the United States.

"With respect to START, there is no doubt that the START treaty is in the interests of the United States. Don't just take it from me or from the President; look at what the Europeans - people like Angela Merkel or the foreign minister of Poland or the president of any of the Baltic countries or so many others are saying - they live next door to Russia, they know that this is in their interests, and they also know that because we have no treaty, there is no inspection going on, there is no verification going on."

When Schieffer pointed out that the president doesn't have the votes in the Senate to bypass a prospective filibuster, Clinton said, "Bob, it's always difficult to get these treaties through. It always takes a lot of presidential effort. And we are making the case that number one, this is in America's national security interests, our friends and allies around the world support this, we need to get inspectors back on the ground. Remember what Ronald Reagan said when he was passing an arms control treaty with Russia: 'Trust, but verify.' Right now, we cannot verify."

She pointed out that the Senate Foreign Relations committee has already voted through the treaty on a bipartisan vote, but that it couldn't get the necessary attention before the midterm election.

"The President is saying this needs to be dealt with in the lame duck session. Senator Lugar, who knows more about arms control treaties than anybody else, I would argue, in our country probably at this point, has said very passionately: This must be done for the United States."

"But do you think you can get the votes?" asked Schieffer.

"Well, but that's what politics is about," Clinton replied. "And I have to say, I'm proud of the President for making this a priority, because he's putting it above politics, which is exactly where it needs to be. He believes so strongly that this is an important treaty to get done this year that he is putting his enormous office efforts behind it, and obviously we're all doing everything we can.

"Now at the end of the day, the Senators have to decide. But I would hope that this treaty would be treated as others (whether it was a Democratic or Republican president) saw their treaties in arms control with the Russians treated.

"This is beyond politics," she said. "Let's pass it by an overwhelming bipartisan vote."
  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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