Friendly Persuasion at the New START Lobby Day
By Jim Cason on 11/16/2010 @ 09:30 AM
The first floor atrium of Hart Senate Office Building looked like an extension of FCNL’s Annual Meeting in the late morning hours of Monday, November 15. Or at least that was the impression that one visitor had as FCNL grassroots lobbyists fanned out across the Senate to talk about the importance of ratifying the New START Treaty with Russia during the lame duck session of Congress.
Nearly 100 people from across the country came together for a day of briefings on the New START and then an intensive day of lobbying. FCNL’s David Culp organized the lobby day for our constituents who attended Annual Meeting and persuaded three other organizations to cosponsor the event and encourage their constituents to attend: Citizens for Global Solutions, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Women’s Action for New Directions.
The most powerful briefing came on Monday morning when Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, briefed the gathering on the administration’s efforts to secure ratification of the treaty. FCNL’s David Culp welcomed Gottemoeller to the briefing and organized a brief question and answer sessions after she spoke.
Following that briefing, participants fanned out across the Senate to meet with individual members of Congress. All told, the participants logged close to 40 separate lobby visits according to FCNL Program Assistant Deana Boyd (who did much of the logistical work for the lobby day). Most of the participants met with Congressional staff because Senators do not typically arrive in Washington until Monday evening. But at least five different groups met with their Senators to discuss the importance of Senate ratification of the New START Treaty.
The actual lobby day was filled with the different, and sometimes conflicting, reports of progress on treaty ratification. The Senator began arriving back in town Monday for the first part of the lame duck session of this Congress. They are expected to be in town all week and then go home for the thanksgiving break before returning on November 29 for one or two weeks of business.
Ratifying treaties requires an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Senate — 67 votes. Thanks in large part to your efforts around the country, we at FCNL believe that if the treaty is brought to a vote, there will be at least 67 votes in favor of ratification. The challenge is persuading the leadership of both parties in the Senate to schedule floor time for a vote. The principal ask in our lobby visits was please schedule floor time for a vote on this important issue that will make the world safer.
Throughout the day, our constituents met with different Senate offices and followed press reports about the vote. Early on Monday, Arizona Senator John McCain expressed optimism that the treaty could be ratified during the lame duck session. Then several hours later Senator Kyl said he was less optimistic about the prospects for ratification during the lame duck session. For FCNL’s David Culp, the public statements were evidence that there are intense negotiations going on behind the scenes to secure a vote.
FCNL’s Executive Secretary Joe Volk, who has worked on these issues for 20 years, participated in the lobby day on November 15. Although he was focused primarily on running the lobby day, FCNL’s David Culp did get a chance to introduce Rose Gottemoeller to our new Executive Secretary, Diane Randall, who will take over from Joe Volk on March 1, 2011.