DESPITE POWERFUL OPPOSITION, SENATE RATIFIES FIRST MAJOR DISARMAMENT TREATY IN DECADES
In 2009, President Obama laid out a vision of a nuclear weapons free world before a crowd of thousands in Prague. But making concrete steps toward that goal meant overcoming reckless Cold War thinking and a toxic political environment. You and other Peace Action supporters were up to the challenge and helped usher the first major arms control treaty in decades through a deeply divided Senate.
For every hawk that spread misinformation about New START, our pro- disarmament coalition responded with ten experts arguing that the treaty was essential to U.S. security. Peace Action supporters made thousands of calls to Republican senators demanding that they put nuclear security ahead of petty politics. The clock was ticking, because if the treaty didn't come to a vote by December, it would get kicked to the incoming class
of senators -- a class filled with newly elected rightwing hardliners. But when the writing was on the wall, 13 Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in voting for ratification (Senate vote #298).
Because of your help, as well as the dedication of activists around the country, there will be fewer dangerous nuclear weapons in the world. More importantly, ratifying the treaty sets up our next steps toward removing every last nuclear weapon from the face of the earth.
DRUMBEAT AGAINST WAR IN AFGHANISTAN GROWS
Last year the debate on the Afghanistan war finally progressed beyond blind support to a serious questioning of what we are getting for our $8 billion a month. In fact, 2010 saw a record number of politicians speaking out against the war.
The House's strongest legislation was Rep. Kucinich's (D-OH) bill to end the war by December 2010 (House vote #98). In addition to the 65 representatives who voted in favor, many others came to the floor to express reservations about continuing the war.
Subsequent legislation on funding and oversight of the war got triple digit support in the House. An amendment by Rep. Lee (D-CA), which would have prohibited military funding for anything other than a safe withdrawal, garnered support from 100 representatives (House vote #432). The high water mark of opposition came with the McGovern- Obey amendment to set a timeline for withdrawal, which garnered the support of 162 representatives, including then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- CA). The Senate took its first ever vote on setting a timeline for the war in an amendment offered by Sen. Feingold (D-WI) (Senate vote #168).
Throughout the year, lawmakers remarked that their constituents were fed up with the war's waste in lives and dollars. Our supporters helped raise the political cost of continuing the war and brought us closer to our goal of bringing it to an end.
NUCLEAR PORK SERVED ON A SILVER PLATTER
As the president worked to get the 67 votes needed to ratify New START, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), a prominent Republican, exploited his influence to bank money for the nuclear weapons complex. Kyl played coy with the administration, peddling misinformation about the need to "modernize" the nuclear arsenal, while maintaining that he was undecided on New START. Since many Republicans said they'd follow Kyl's lead on the treaty, the game was set, and the administration started courting Kyl.
But it's likely Kyl never intended to support the treaty. He even admitted he was dragging things out for attention and influence, stating, "If I announce for or against the treaty at this point, nobody would listen to me."
Still, the administration believed it needed to demonstrate a spirit of accommodation, so it pledged to Kyl a whopping $85 billion for the U.S. nuclear complex over 10 years. Ultimately, Kyl voted against the treaty, in spite of gifts of nuclear pork.
While Americans face painful cuts in social spending, does it make sense to spend billions on upgrades for a shrinking nuclear arsenal? The spending could also encourage the spread of nuclear weapons, and Peace Action is organizing to block it.
REPUBLICANS TORPEDO EFFORT TO PREVENT FORCED CHILD MARRIAGE
House Republicans mobilized to kill a bill that could have helped stop forced child marriage and would have given girls living in extreme poverty economic and educational opportunities. You won't believe their reasoning.
The Senate approved the bill unanimously, so the time-crunched House opted to use a procedure that would allow them to pass it quickly by not allowing time to propose amendments. However, that procedure requires a two-thirds majority vote. But legislators from both sides of the aisle had worked for months to build support, and they were confident they had the votes they needed. Then Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) circulated a letter saying the program was too costly, and making bogus links to abortion rights. At the last second, Republican leaders announced they would oppose the bill and encouraged others to follow. Even the bill's Republican backers were stunned by the stunt, and had no time to push back. The bill went down just shy of the two-thirds threshold (House vote #645). Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the lead Senate sponsor, responded, "Those who voted to continue this barbaric practice brought shame to Capitol Hill."