What: All Issues : War & Peace : Nuclear Weapons : On an amendment that would have increased the number of nuclear delivery systems permitted under a nuclear weapons reduction treaty. (A “nuclear delivery system” refers to the technology that launches a nuclear weapon in a manner that will enable it to detonate on or near its target.) This amendment would have effectively killed the treaty for the foreseeable future. (2010 senate Roll Call 286)
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On an amendment that would have increased the number of nuclear delivery systems permitted under a nuclear weapons reduction treaty. (A “nuclear delivery system” refers to the technology that launches a nuclear weapon in a manner that will enable it to detonate on or near its target.) This amendment would have effectively killed the treaty for the foreseeable future.
senate Roll Call 286     Dec 20, 2010
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) that would have increased the number of nuclear delivery systems permitted under a nuclear weapons reduction treaty. A “nuclear delivery system” refers to the technology that launches a nuclear weapon in a manner that will enable it to detonate on or near its target.  The treaty permitted a total of 700 of these “launchers,” while Thune’s amendment would have raised that limit to 720. The amendment was offered to a nuclear weapons reduction treaty known as the “New START” agreement. This 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.

Thune urged support for his amendment, arguing that the treaty’s limit of 700 nuclear delivery systems amounted to a major concession by the United States, but required no concession whatsoever from the Russians. (The U.S. had far more delivery systems, and thus, Thune argued, had more to lose.) Thune contended: “We start out right now with about 856 delivery vehicles…We will end up down at 700. So we are going to take about 156 of our delivery vehicles, reduce that, retire those, and get down to that 700 number. The Russians, on the other hand, start at about 620. So they are already well below the 700 number called for in the treaty….So this particular provision in the treaty costs them nothing. We give up 156 delivery vehicles. They give up nothing. In fact, they can come up to the 700 number. They could increase the number of delivery vehicles they currently have to come up to that 700 number.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) urged opposition to Thune’s amendment, arguing that any change to the treaty would require the U.S. and Russia to renegotiate the entire agreement.  Thus, Kerry argued, the amendment would have effectively killed the treaty for the foreseeable future: “This amendment…is one of those that would force renegotiation of the entire treaty. … when you take one piece out of there [out of the treaty] and change it unilaterally, nothing is agreed upon. At that point, you reopen all of the other issues, and some of them are contentious… the military, our national security people, our national intelligence community…all of them say: ratify this treaty. And that is what I believe we ought to do as soon as possible.”

The Senate rejected this amendment by a vote of 33-64. Voting “yea were 33 Republicans. All 56 Democrats present and 8 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected that would have increased the number of nuclear delivery systems permitted under a nuclear weapons reduction treaty.

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