What: All Issues : War & Peace : Missile Defense Systems : On an amendment that would have required the president to certify that he had negotiated a legally binding agreement stating that Russia would not use “covers” with respect to its nuclear warheads (“covers” literally conceal nuclear weapons and thus hinder weapons inspections). This amendment was offered to a resolution accompanying a nuclear weapons reduction treaty known as the “New START Treaty.” (2010 senate Roll Call 297)
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On an amendment that would have required the president to certify that he had negotiated a legally binding agreement stating that Russia would not use “covers” with respect to its nuclear warheads (“covers” literally conceal nuclear weapons and thus hinder weapons inspections). This amendment was offered to a resolution accompanying a nuclear weapons reduction treaty known as the “New START Treaty.”
senate Roll Call 297     Dec 21, 2010
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) that would have required the president to certify -- prior to the enactment of a nuclear weapons reduction treaty -- that he has negotiated a legally binding “side agreement” to the treaty stating that Russia would not use “covers” with respect to its nuclear warheads. Covers literally conceal nuclear weapons and thus hinder weapons inspections. The amendment also would have required the president to certify that he had negotiated a separate agreement guaranteeing both Russia and the U.S. access to telemetry from flight tests of missiles (in which the effectiveness and accuracy of missiles are tested) limited by the treaty. “Telemetry” refers to the official record of and data relating to a test flight of a missile. In a report on this treaty, Steven Pifer – an arms control expert with the Brookings institution -- describes telemetry as simply “the information a ballistic missile broadcasts during a test flight.” Thus, the U.S. would have been guaranteed access to such records from Russia’s missile flight tests, and vice versa.

Kyl’s amendment was offered to a “resolution of ratification” on this treaty between the U.S. and Russia (known as the “New START” treaty). Resolutions of ratification allow the Senate to offer explanations and interpretations of provisions in the treaties they approve. The amendment was not offered to the treaty itself.

Kyl urged support for his amendment: “This amendment amounts to an effort to…deal with a variety of issues which…we believe are inadequately dealt with by the treaty. One of them involves covers, the kinds of things the then-Soviet Union and now Russians consistently put over the warheads so that it is impossible for our inspectors to see what is under them ….On telemetry, we say the president should certify to the Senate that he has reached a legally binding agreement with the Russian Federation so that each party is obliged to provide full and unimpeded access to its telemetry from all flight tests of strategic missiles limited by the treaty….Our intelligence community has told us that this is of great value to us in assessing the capabilities of Russian missiles.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) urged opposition to the amendment: “This is a major amendment. In my view, it is a deal breaker. It is a poison pill for the entire treaty. It essentially provides real changes in the treaty. It says the president, prior to the treaty going into effect, must certify that he has achieved certain side agreements, and those side agreements strike directly at some of the heart of the treaty. Therefore, it will effectively, in my view, be unacceptable to the Russians and will destroy the treaty…. If you are for the treaty, there is only one vote, and it is to vote no [on this amendment]….”

The Senate rejected this amendment by a vote of 30-63. Voting “yea” were 30 Republicans. All 55 Democrats present and 8 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have required the president to certify that he had negotiated a legally binding agreement stating that Russia would not use “covers” with respect to its nuclear warheads – as well as a separate agreement guaranteeing both Russia and the U.S. access to telemetry from flight tests of missiles.

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