Obama invokes Reagan in continued push for Russian arms treaty

Jon Ward Contributor
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President Obama invoked the name of former President Ronald Reagan Thursday as he continued to push Senate Republicans to approve a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia before the end of the year.

“This is not a Democratic concept. This is not a Republican concept. This is a concept of American national security that has been promoted by Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now my administration,” Obama said.

He made his remarks seated next to James A. Baker, who served as White House chief of staff to President Reagan, and went on to serve as Secretary of State to President H.W. Bush.

Baker was one of the several former national security officials to meet with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday morning at the White House to discuss the Strategic Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

Obama used Reagan’s name twice.

“As Ronald Reagan said, we have to trust but we have to verify. In order to verify, we have to have a treaty,” Obama said. “We cannot afford to gamble on our ability to verify Russia’s strategic nuclear arms.”

Obama gave an implicit rebuke to Republicans, saying now was not a time for political considerations. Democratic allies were on the move Thursday in an effort to put the GOP on its heels by saying Republicans were risking the nation’s national security.

John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, wrote in an op-ed published by Politico that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, “should schedule a vote in this lame-duck session.”

“The United States — and the world — will then know whether Republicans choose partisanship or the security of the United States,” Podesta said.

One of the main sticking points, according to sources, is that Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, wants the administration to commit to $10 billion more for the National Nuclear Security Administration over the next 10 years to improve the nation’s weapons arsenal, while the White House has so far committed to $4 billion over the next five years.

Democrats believe that Kyl, the Senate minority whip, and other Republican are loathe to be seen as working with Obama at a time when cooperation is anathema to much of the conservative base.

Obama defended himself from criticism in the GOP that he has decided to rush the START treaty at the last minute, without a thorough round of negotiations with key Republican lawmakers.

“We have taken the time to do this right. To ensure that the treaty got a fair hearing we submitted it to the Senate last spring,” he said.

Obama’s comments represented the third day of continued pressure from the White House on Kyl and other Republican senators. The GOP has shown no signs of backing down.

But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Biden and other administration officials are talking to Republican senators to lobby for their vote. Gibbs remained optimistic that Obama would win over enough lawmakers to get to 67 votes.

“The substantive concerns [Kyl] has with modernizing our nuclear program can and will be met,” Gibbs said.

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