Obama Thanks Congress for Work on Defense Issues
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2010 President Barack Obama thanked legislators today for overcoming partisan differences in approving the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and in repealing the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
Obama spoke during a White House news conference. He praised the bipartisan efforts of the lame duck Congress, which also passed legislation to extend tax cuts, spur economic growth and support those first responders who suffered health problems as a result of their actions on 9/11.
“If there’s any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it’s that we are not doomed to endless gridlock,” the president said. “We’ve shown in the wake of the November elections that we have the capacity not only to make progress, but to make progress together.”
The president also spoke to the members of the American military. “I want to send a message to all those Americans who are spending Christmas serving our nation in harm’s way,” he said. “As I said in Afghanistan earlier this month, the American people stand united in our support and admiration for you. And in this holiday season, I’d ask the American people to keep our troops in your prayers and lend a hand to those military families who have an empty seat at the table.”
On the don’t ask, don’t tell repeal, the president said he listened to the military advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos told him there could be disruptions from repeal, Obama said. But all of the chiefs told the president that “they were confident that they could implement this policy without it affecting our military cohesion and good discipline and readiness.”
Obama called the new START treaty the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades. He said the treaty will allow the United States and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals and do so in a verifiable manner.
“With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases,” he said. “So we will be able to trust, but verify.”
The treaty is an important brick in rebuilding the U.S. relationship with Russia. The United States and Russia can work together on a host of foreign policy initiatives, including sanctions on Iran and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to terrorists.
“The strong bipartisan vote in the Senate sends a powerful signal to the world that Republicans and Democrats stand together on behalf of our security,” Obama said.