Obama Tells GOP It’s Had Enough Time on START

Posted December 18, 2010 at 5:00am

In his weekly national address, President Barack Obama urged Congress to pass the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, saying Republicans should “show the same spirit of common purpose on our security” they showed in achieving a compromise on extending tax cuts.

The president said his proposed treaty — which Republicans think should be punted to next year to allow for longer debate time — would  “reduce the world’s nuclear arsenals and make America more secure.”

“We have taken the time to get this right,” Obama said, adding the treaty has been under review by the Senate for more than seven months with 18 hearings including nearly 1,000 questions and answers. “Every minute we drag our feet is a minute that we have no inspectors on the ground at those Russian nuclear sites.”

“Ratifying a treaty like START isn’t about winning a victory for an administration or a political party. It’s about the safety and security of the United States of America,” Obama said. “That’s why this treaty is supported by both Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.”

But top Republicans engaging in the debate say Democrats’ insistence on debating the treaty on a dual track with other legislative measures was only imperiling its odds of clearing the Senate.

As of Friday night, there was no indication as to when consideration of the treaty would conclude, although the discussed timeline calls for the Senate to vote on ratification early next week.

Meanwhile, National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. John Cornyn boasted in the GOP’s weekly address that voters were vindicated when Democrats were forced to pull an earmark-laden spending bill from consideration. The Texas Republican noted the historic GOP gains of 63 House seats and six Senate seats.

“This week, even before these new reinforcements have taken their seats, Republicans showed the American people that we got the message,” Cornyn said. “And everyone can see how your choices have already changed the terms of the debate here in Washington.”

He took credit for the GOP in achieving the tax deal, saying the bipartisan agreement with the White House “was made possible because voters gave Republicans much more leverage at the negotiating table.”

In a nod to tea partyers he needs as he helps the GOP try to win control of the Senate in 2012, Cornyn thanked them for their activism.

“Senate Republicans stood together but we did not stand alone. … You lit up the phone lines across the Capitol and across the nation,” he said. “You helped strengthen the resolve of the Republican Caucus and rattled the nerves of the big spenders on the other side of the aisle.”

He did not mention that many of the earmarks in the bill were requested by Members from his party.

In his address, Obama also lauded the signing of the $858 billion tax cut measure he said would “help grow our economy, spur businesses and jump-start job creation.”

Obama referenced the nasty fight he had with many Democrats who did not want to extend the George W. Bush-era tax breaks for the highest earners, and said that Americans would not see their taxes go up on New Year’s Day.

“This package, which is so important for our economy at this pivotal time, was the product of hard negotiations. Like any negotiations, there was give and take on both sides. But I’m heartened by our ability to come together to do what’s best for middle-class families across this country and our economy as a whole,” he said.

David M. Drucker contributed to this report.