Memphis Commercial Appeal: Editorial: Rising above partisanship

The success of START shows American allies that politics have not crippled our government.

Posted on December 25, 2010

Like Howard Baker before them, U.S. senators from the Volunteer State are affecting the course of American foreign policy in profound and positive ways.

This was never more evident than it was this week when Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander stood with Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, 10 more Republican colleagues and every Senate Democrat to approve ratification of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

The treaty will reduce the size of U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles. Moreover, its approval should give some assurance to the country's allies around the world that the Senate is not as dysfunctional as they thought.

The bipartisan 71-26 vote simply put an important national goal ahead of the GOP leadership's effort to make President Barack Obama look bad, whatever the cost. The vote should persuade America's allies that we can be relied on when the stakes are high.

Corker, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, leveraged his support to obtain a commitment from the president to modernize the nation's nuclear arsenal and support missile defense.

Similar assurances by Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were said to have won the support of Alexander along with colleagues such as Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

"I'm convinced that America is safer and more secure with the New START treaty than without it," said Alexander.

Alexander had voted previously to block the treaty but switched sides after being assured that after modernization and despite treaty reductions the United States would be left with "enough nuclear warheads to blow any attacker to kingdom come."

According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, part of the president's $85 billion commitment to modernization is the go-ahead for a new Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility in Oak Ridge that is expected to cost from $4.2 billion to $6.5 billion.

The New START approval was among a quick succession of bipartisan agreements that marked the end of the session this week.

Chances for more improvement in the way the Senate operates are uncertain on the eve of Republican gains from the November election.

But for a brief period, at least, the Upper Chamber demonstrated what it can do when important national goals are at stake, and Mid-South Republicans played a role.