Ezra Klein pointed out recently in a Washington Post piece the challenge that President Obama faces in his dealings with today’s Republican Party. Using the DREAM Act as an example, Klein shows how longstanding Republican positions, after being embraced by Obama, become toxic, making bipartisanship difficult if not impossible.
Cap and trade for carbon emissions, an individual mandate for health care and campaign contribution disclosure were also Republican ideas but the GOP withdrew its support for such policies once Obama adopted them. Thomas Mann and Norman Orenstein, of the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, have also drawn attention to this partisan duplicity. “Today, thanks to the GOP, compromise has gone out the window in Washington,” they write, pointing out that Republican lawmakers have even voted against their own legislation on debt reduction to deny the President a victory.
This obstructionism isn’t only confined to domestic policy issues. It now threatens Obama’s ability to implement New START and reduce unnecessary spending on nuclear weapons.
Republicans have supported arms control measures when Republican Presidents were in office and claim to champion responsible government spending, making their current behavior all the more bizarre.
As part of its effort to win Republican support for New START, the Obama administration pledged to increase the financial commitment to maintaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal. The administration projected $88 billion in spending on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) weapons activities and $125 billion in spending by the Pentagon on delivery systems over the next ten years.
New START passed in December of 2010, eight months before the Budget Control Act changed the fiscal landscape in Washington. Given this new budget environment, it’s no surprise that it has been necessary to begin recalibrating the ten-year nuclear weapons spending plan.
In response to this recalibration, many Republicans in Congress are seeking to condition implementation of New START on full funding for nuclear weapons programs at the level projected in 2010. The House version of the FY 2013 defense bill includes provisions that would do just that.
With regard to the NNSA weapons activities budget, one of the main Republican criticisms—that Obama’s funding request is 4% lower than projected in 2010—is highly misleading. The projections were made before the Budget Control Act, which demands belt-tightening across the board. Nevertheless, Obama’s FY 2013 request for NNSA weapons activities is still 5% higher than the enacted budget for FY 2012, a substantial increase in a difficult fiscal environment.
The Obama administration is thus fulfilling its responsibility to maintain and modernize our nuclear arsenal while ensuring that the most essential capabilities are prioritized.
It is also worth remembering that the cuts Republicans are now citing as evidence of Obama’s lack of commitment to maintaining the nuclear arsenal were initiated in the Republican-controlled House in 2011 and 2012. They are criticizing him not only for reducing unnecessary government spending, but for reducing it when they have supported such reductions.
When Republicans play politics with our nuclear weapons arsenal, they not only go against their own ideals of responsible government spending, they are putting our security in jeopardy by undermining a treaty that reduces the number of nuclear weapons pointed at the United States and provides us with valuable information on Russian capabilities. This tactic of sabotaging the president by opposing any position he adopts is not only excessively partisan, it is dangerous for our national security and the health of our country.