What: All Issues : War & Peace : Nuclear Weapons : On an amendment that would have eliminated language in a nuclear arms reduction treaty which some senators believed could harm U.S. efforts to build a missile defense system. This amendment would have effectively killed the treaty for the foreseeable future. (2010 senate Roll Call 282)
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On an amendment that would have eliminated language in a nuclear arms reduction treaty which some senators believed could harm U.S. efforts to build a missile defense system. This amendment would have effectively killed the treaty for the foreseeable future.
senate Roll Call 282     Dec 18, 2010
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. John McCain that would have eliminated language from a nuclear arms reduction treaty which McCain contended could harm U.S. efforts to build a missile defense system. The treaty that McCain sought to amend (known as the “New START” treaty) was strongly supported by the Obama administration, and limited the number of warheads the U.S. and Russia could maintain in their nuclear arsenals to 1,550.

The exact language that McCain objected to stated that “current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the parties.” McCain argued that the word “current” implied that future missile defense programs would amount to a violation of the START treaty. Thus, McCain, a strong supporter of a missile defense system, argued that this language was unacceptable, and thus tried to cut it from the treaty entirely.

McCain argued: “…By saying that `current' missile defenses do not undermine the treaty's viability and effectiveness, this…establishes that future missile defense deployments could undermine the treaty, thereby establishing a political threat the Russian Federation could use to try to constrain U.S. missile defenses….To have…a clear and unequivocal statement that any improvement in our defensive weapon missile systems will then be grounds for withdrawal from the treaty is not anything we should let stand.”

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) urged opposition to the McCain amendment, arguing that the language McCain objected to would not constrain U.S. missile defense efforts in the future: “As all our senior civilian and military officials acknowledge, the treaty does not limit our missile defense plans or programs….Our…statement makes clear that we intend to develop and deploy missile defenses…”

The Senate rejected this amendment by a vote of 37-59. Voting “yea” were 36 Republicans and 1 Democrat. 56 Democrats and 3 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have eliminated language from a nuclear arms reduction treaty which critics of the treaty contended could harm U.S. efforts to build a missile defense system.

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