White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is angry that Senator Jim DeMint is going to require a Senate clerk to spend 12 whole hours reading the START arms deal aloud before senators vote on it. Says Obama's spokesman in a statement:
This is a new low in putting political stunts ahead of our national security, and it is exactly the kind of Washington game-playing that the American people are sick of. While some express concern that the Senate doesn’t have time to debate the Treaty, Senator DeMint wants to waste 12 hours to read the text of a treaty that has been available to every member of the Senate and the public for more than eight months. This Treaty has been the subject of nearly 20 Senate hearings and 1,000 questions, and is supported by President George H.W. Bush, every living Republican Secretary of State, our NATO allies, and the military leadership of the United States of America. Every minute that the START Treaty is being read on the Senate floor increases the time that we lack verification of Russia’s nuclear arsenal. It is the height of hypocrisy to complain that there is not enough time to consider this Treaty, while wasting so much time reading aloud a document that was submitted to the Senate months ago.
Of course, the national health care bill was the subject of even more hearings and questions and news coverage--and senators acknowledged they didn't read it. For that matter, Gibbs would never even say if Obama read the health care bill. START has received far less scrutiny, so why exactly is it such a bad thing to spend another 12 hours on it to give senators another chance to know what's in it? Apparently Gibbs believes that if George H. W. Bush supports a foreign policy initiative, all Republicans must support it, but DeMint and other Republicans have some serious concerns about the deal. Here's a response to Gibbs from Jim DeMint's spokesman Wesley Denton:
Americans didn’t vote in November to ram through Obama’s agenda in December. Congress should do what’s necessary, stop tax increases and fund the government with a continuing resolution, and then wait for other important debates until the leaders Americans just elected are seated. This is a desperate last-minute rush by politicians thrown out of office to ram through deficit spending, pork-barrel earmarks, and a treaty that could weaken national security on their way out the door. Senator DeMint has made it clear that he's going to use every tool available to stop the controversial START Treaty from being rammed through during the lame duck session, so that the senators Americans elected have a chance to review it next Congress. Additionally, the Obama administration has not been cooperative in providing the necessary documents to debate the treaty, as they have continually refused to share the negotiating records even after it was revealed they held undisclosed talks with Russians over missile defense.