Harry, it looks like you defied the odds in Nevada and are going to be in D.C. for another six years. Amen. But winning elections is one thing. If you seriously want to prove that you still have the chops to remain Majority leader in the next Congress, it's time to get serious about finishing the current Congress on a winning consensus-building note.
While there are certainly many important issues on your plate that are far from guaranteed, why not show your true leadership skills? Pass the New START nuclear draw-down treaty. It has strong bipartisan support and is a security no-brainer.
In just a few weeks, it will have been an entire year since President Reagan's START I treaty expired and U.S. inspectors were dismissed from Russian nuclear facilities. Its replacement, New START, allows us to make mutual cuts in our nuclear arsenal alongside Russia under a transparent verification system. It was negotiated in April, debated and voted for in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) over the summer (with the support of three Republican senators), and now awaits a full Senate vote in order to be ratified.
Over 70 national security advisers and military officials from eight different administrations and across both sides of the aisle have publicly announced their support for New START. Countless editorials at the local and national level -- by bi-partisan experts and politicians alike -- have been penned in support of New START. The grassroots efforts have been strong and well-organized. New START's national security value shouldn't be underestimated.
Mr. Reid, you are responsible for putting New START vote on the agenda. This wouldn't be the first time the Senate used the post-election session to pass important treaties - the Chemical Weapons Convention received the OK from the Senate in 1997. What's more important: our national security or a few extra days at home from the Senate?
The other key to ratification is Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl's (R-AZ) consent, as he has the potential to bring parts of the Republican caucus out of the woodwork to vote for this treaty. His decision on New START is still unknown, depending on further conversations about funding for modernizing the nuclear weapons complex. Senator Kyl supports funds for the complex that far exceed the significant figure that the administration has already proposed.
The Senate needs to take this opportunity to ratify New START now before newly-elected conservative Senators solidify their foreign policy stances. These newly-elected Republican wild cards could oppose the treaty just to say "No" to Obama.
That's the goal of the hyper-conservative Heritage Foundation. Heritage tried to slam Senator Corker (R-TN) for voting for the treaty in SFRC, but even Corker's chief of staff called their bluff on the claim that "this treaty harms our national security."
Heritage is at odds with the most well-respected national security advisers in the business. Clearly they're more interested in killing the treaty than protecting our national security.
How much longer will we have to wait until U.S. inspectors can get back to verifying Russian nuclear facilities? Our national security isn't the only thing at stake. Working with Russia to reduce nuclear arsenals via New START means better cooperation on other issues -- most importantly on containing Iran's ambitious nuclear program. Both New START and the situation with Iran are critical to America's role as a world leader in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The vast majority of Americans want our lawmakers to work together. And we want to reduce the number of dangerous nukes. So Harry, pull together the security advisers, the military officials and the many Americans who want to see this task done. Then tell your fellow Senators that your holiday gift to the world is a vote on the New START treaty before this Senate goes home.