Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. -- who has written the State Department twice since 2010 to urge use of the gold standard in upcoming atomic trade pacts -- joined the fray again late last week.
As ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar formally asked panel Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., to hold a hearing “in the near future” on the trade policy’s “implications for U.S. security from nuclear threats,” according to the text, also obtained by GSN.
Lugar’s letter to Kerry followed an informal agreement by the committee’s Democratic and Republican staff directors to schedule such an event, which was to feature administration witnesses and possibly additional testimony by issue experts, according to Capitol Hill sources. However, committee plans for the hearing were canceled without explanation and Kerry has not yet responded to Lugar’s written request, said one Senate aide.
The administration and its supporters on the issue might hope “that the issue will just go away if they try to ignore it,” said the senior Senate aide. “I think that’s a grave misperception.”
The flurry of lawmaker letters on the issue comes alongside an editorial in The New York Times decrying what it dubbed the “bronze standard,” and an opinion piece by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and John Bolton, a former arms control official and ambassador to the United Nations under the George W. Bush administration.
If the Obama policy stands, “America will likely soon find itself in the inadvertent business of helping a multitude of countries pursue their deadly nuclear ambitions,” the two political opposites concluded in the Christian Science Monitor commentary.
“In a poisonous partisan environment, finally there is one thing that people who don’t normally work together can agree on,” Henry Sokolski, who directs the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said in a Thursday interview. “No one in their right minds believes nuclear salesmanship should supersede security.”
Sokolski collaborated with Foreign Policy Initiative head Jamie Fly on a letter Tuesday to Obama, signed by 20 conservative defense experts, recommending an about-face on the policy.
“Rather than abandon efforts to tighten nonproliferation controls on civil nuclear exports, the United States should be leveraging access to our market to encourage French, Russian, and Asian nuclear suppliers to tighten their own rules to meet the nonproliferation gold standard,” according to the signatories, which include former Defense Department policy head Eric Edelman, former national security adviser Steven Hadley, and former nuclear nonproliferation envoy Robert Joseph.
Speaking on Friday, Poneman said he thinks further administration engagement with Capitol Hill should help resolve the growing policy debate.
“We look forward to continuing that discussion,” he said. “And I feel confident that that discussion will provide an outcome that all of us can support.”