Lame-Duck Session to Continue to Defy Name With Ratification of New START Treaty

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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

New START, the treaty that would further reduce the nuclear stockpiles of the United States and Russia and resume the inspection and verification process that was halted a year ago when the old START treaty expired, looks like it has garnered the required support among Republican senators to reach the lofty two-thirds threshold required for the ratification of all treaties in the Senate. With the Democrats unified behind the treaty, nine Republican votes were needed, and it appears that by yesterday the tireless lobbying of administration officials had convinced enough fence-sitters, like Scott Brown and Johnny Isakson of Georgia. Assuming there are no surprises, this would be the third major victory for President Obama in the lame-duck session. What shellacking? There was a shellacking?

It wasn't easy, though. Despite approval from former Republican secretaries of State and other national-security heavyweights, and the overwhelming support the Senate has historically given to arms-limitations treaties, most of the Senate GOP just hasn't been on board. Some worry that the treaty will hinder our plans for a missile-defense system, others probably just don't want to make President Obama look good, if we're going to be cynical about it. And of course, as with everything else in the lame-duck session, there's the issue of timing.

The floor debate turned heated at times on Monday. [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell accused Mr. Obama of politicizing the treaty by pressing to ratify it before a new Senate takes office in January with five additional Republicans. “Our top concern should be the safety and security of our nation, not some politician’s desire to declare a political victory and host a press conference before the end of the year,” he said.

[John] Kerry retorted that the treaty had been delayed 13 times at the request of Republicans. “Having accommodated their interests,” he said, “they now come back and turn around and say: ‘Oh, you guys are terrible. You’re bringing this treaty up at the last minute.’ I mean, is there no shame, ever, with respect to the arguments that are made sometimes on the floor of the United States Senate?”

Is that a real question?

Senate Support Builds for Pact on Arms Control [NYT]
Dems reach magic number on arms treaty as GOP support builds [Hill]