March 21st, 2013. Obama’s Nuclear Weapons Drawdown Could Run Afoul of the Law. David Yonkman, Newsmax.
“President Barack Obama’s efforts to significantly curtail U.S. nuclear weapons without seeking the proper Senate approval are at best misguided and worst illegal, sources tell Newsmax.
Obama is exploring opportunities to achieve the reductions in infrastructure and capability he seeks – including a drawdown to 1,000 weapons – without seeking the advice and consent of the Senate that international treaties require.
Efforts to push the boundaries of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia are ill-advised, sources say. A proposal that seeks to achieve nuclear arms reductions outside the framework of New START, however, would run afoul of the law.
“A presidential announcement that would try to do a nontreaty agreement would be prohibited by the code,” Baker Spring, a research fellow in national security policy at the Heritage Foundation, tells Newsmax.
The Senate has specifically spoken to the precise circumstances pertaining to any modification or reinterpretation of New START or a new agreement that would reduce the U.S. arsenal to levels below those included in New START.
The statements are found in the Senate-approved resolution of ratification accompanying New START. Specifically, Declaration 9 of the resolution states that any agreement or understanding that modifies, amends, or reinterprets New START should be submitted to the Senate for ratification.
Declaration 11 states that any new nuclear-arms reduction agreement beyond New START also should be subject to the treaty process and require Senate consent under the Constitution.
Pursuing additional nuclear reductions also could run afoul of the 1961 Arms Control and Disarmament Act, which requires congressional approval for nuclear-weapons disarmament.
Furthermore, New START in particular singled out such projects as the Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Facility at Los Alamos, N.M. It was supposed to replace the aging Chemical and Metallurgy Research Facility to reconstitute the country’s ability to produce plutonium pits.
Obama certified to the Senate he would expedite it before New START went into effect, but then he delayed it by five years.
“The administration is clearly walking away from their commitments,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner tells Newsmax. The Ohio Republican serves on the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee.
Spring, of the Heritage Foundation, argues that slow-walking the CMRR also puts into question the legal framework in which the START treaty operates.
Additionally, the administration is contemplating unilaterally signing on to the international Space Code of Conduct because it cannot obtain the Senate’s consent.
Congress has a number of measures to challenge the president’s authority to disarm the United States through executive direction or informal agreement, according to Baker. It could challenge the president in court should his administration attempt to bypass the advice and consent of the Senate or through any number of legislative initiatives.
“Congress, and most particularly the Senate, has a variety of tools to preserve its just powers under the Constitution, and in this case as reinforced by statutory law,” Baker says. “Most are political, which should be preferable.”
Congress could direct that no funds that it appropriates may be used to dismantle the weapons in question.
The Senate could withhold confirmation of an important nominee unless the president commits not to undertake such reductions outside a treaty agreement. The Senate could also attach a condition to another treaty, requiring the president to certify that he will not dismantle any U.S. nuclear weapons except pursuant to a treaty agreement.
The latter was the approach used by the Senate to block former President Bill Clinton’s attempt to circumvent it in concluding an agreement with several newly independent states to establish succession to the Soviet Union under the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tells Newsmax that she is “disappointed” Obama has given Congress no direction on how it intends to proceed with its ambitions to cut U.S. nuclear programs.
It is especially dangerous in light of Iran’s threats to Israel and other Middle Eastern countries, as well as North Korea threatening neighbors such as Japan and South Korea.
The Florida Republican is clear in saying “the Constitution remains clear that the Senate must ratify any international treaty.”
Furthermore, she said, “It would be irresponsible to believe that an agreement [New START] with the Russian government will be honored when it has actively undermined U.S. interests at every turn and violates current arms-control agreements.
“If North Korea or Iran is allowed to successfully develop a nuclear-weapon arsenal, the world is looking straight in the face of the most dangerous nuclear-arms race we could ever imagine, and we must use caution when discussing any depletion of our nuclear arsenal.”