Morning Action: Russia’s Belligerence on New START Treaty Could Give the U.S. A New Start

NEW START.  Russia has threatened to suspend inspections of its nuclear forces even though inspections are required under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).  Heritage explains how the U.S. should respond:

For once, however, Moscow’s belligerence might actually advance America’s national interests.

New START is flawed beyond repair, and places Washington at a considerable geopolitical disadvantage. Therefore, the U.S. should withdraw from the treaty immediately—regardless of whether Russia continues with the mandated inspections. In fact, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) 90% and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) 89% make a similar case in a recent Moscow Times op-ed.

The U.S. has options to address Russian arms control violations and aggression in Ukraine. It should stop any further unilateral nuclear reduction and withdraw from the Conventional Forces Treaty. America should modernize its nuclear arsenal, for example, by providing funding for the B-61 short-range nuclear weapon life-extension program and the Long-Range Standoff missile program. 

TERRORISM.  The Heritage Foundation explains why the Russian occupation of Crimea could lead to a new Islamist terror hotspot:

By annexing the Crimea to Russia, Moscow will most likely radicalize an otherwise peaceful indigenous Tatar community. One of Tatars’ political leaders, a member of Ukrainian Parliament, Mustafa Jemilev, has warned that Tatars are already forming self-defense units to get ready for a struggle against the Russians. Jemilev is not an Islamist himself. He is a historian who was among the ones cleansed by Stalin in 1944.

As conflict between Russia and the Crimean Tatars escalates, there is a danger that it might bring international extremist organizations like al-Qaeda into the region, as happened in Chechnya during Russia’s military campaigns there in the late 1990s and early 2000s. 

MEDICARE.  The House will vote on today on a bill to block a proposed rule to modify Medicare’s prescription drug program (sub. req’d):

Beating House to the Punch: With the House scheduled to vote today on a bill (HR 4016) to block a proposed rule to modify Medicare’s prescription drug program, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday withdrew four of the most controversial provisions. “Given the complexities of these issues and stakeholder input, we do not plan to finalize these proposals at this time,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner wrote to lawmakers.

But it’s unclear whether the CMS’s action will peel away enough Democratic votes to deny House GOP leaders the two-thirds majority needed to pass a bill under suspension.

UI.  Some Republicans want to use offsets in President Obama’s to encourage Democrats to support their plan for a five-month extension of unemployment benefits (sub. req’d):

Republicans backing a five-month extension of expanded jobless aid are looking to exploit a split between the president and liberal Democrats on a contentious offset that would deny recipients of federal disability payments access to full unemployment benefits.

President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal last week endorsed one of the offsets in a new $9.7 billion draft proposal (S 2097) offered by a group of swing-vote Republicans.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) 55%, a leader of the effort by Senate Republicans, and other supporters say they believe there is a good chance the new proposal would attract support from a number of Democrats. “I will keep talking to my Republican and Democratic colleagues so that these benefits are extended for those who desperately need them,” Heller said.

The Obama budget blueprint backed a proposal in a section titled “Cuts, Consolidations and Savings” that would save $3.2 billion over 10 years by “preventing individuals from collecting disability and unemployment benefits for the same period of time.”

IMF.  A Senate panel is debating whether a Ukraine bill should include language for an overhaul of the International Monetary Fund (sub. req’d):

A Senate panel is split over whether a Ukraine bill should include approval for language requested by President Barack Obama approving an overhaul of the International Monetary Fund’s structure.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was set to mark up draft legislation Tuesday that would approve loan guarantees to Ukraine and authorize sanctions on Russia related to the crisis there. The markup of that bill has been postponed, although the committee would go ahead with its planned business meeting to consider other matters, according to a Senate aide.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) 30%, said Monday night that there was a hold-up on the Republican side over the IMF proposal. Congress has to approve the lender’s restructuring, which involves shifting $63 billion from IMF emergency funds to general accounts. Obama said the proposal was vital because it would increase the amount of aid the IMF could send to Ukraine and other countries, a sentiment with which Graham agreed.

The IMF dispute is, in part, a matter of accounting. In 2009 Congress approved an emergency $100 billion influx of cash to the IMF, in the midst of the international financial crisis.

When the Obama administration put the overhaul proposal forward in its fiscal 2014 request, it argued that the $100 billion commitment didn’t need to be included in the budget because it should be considered mandatory, not discretionary, spending. Congress snubbed the proposal in its omnibus spending measure (PL 113-76).

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