Senate has votes to ratify START treaty

Either the GOP has caved on START or the president has convinced enough Republicans that the treaty is an overriding issue of national security.

Lynn Sweet:


The Obama White House has the votes to ratify the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, with the Senate preparing for a vote this week, the Sun-Times has learned. The debate could come as early as Wednesday, after the vote on the tax package Obama negotiated with the Republicans. The Senate on Monday was advancing the tax legislation, with enough votes to end debate.The New START vote will proceed because of a loophole in the Nov. 29 letter all 42 Republicans signed not to advance legislation until the tax deal and government funding bills are passed. The Senate is tentatively set to take up the funding measure at the end of the week.

The Nov. 29 letter states that the GOP senators will "not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all Americans. THE LOOPHOLE: A vote to ratify a treaty is different under Senate rules than a vote to advance legislation, which needs a cloture vote. No cloture vote will be needed for the Senate to take up New START.

Call it the "Let's not be beastly to the Russians" treaty. Flawed as it is, not approving the treaty will have serious repercussions in our relations with Putin. With the Joint Chiefs behind it and most of the foreign policy establishment, you either have to make the argument that these people want the US to approve a bad treaty, or that it is as good as we can get and won't damage national security.

I lean toward the latter, although I think the verification regime is weak. But I have faith enough in our national technical means to discover if the Russians are cheating or not. So I'm not going to be too hard on Republicans who vote for it.

It won't sit well with the missile defense crowd but there is nothing specific in the treaty that precludes us from deploying our own missile defense. All in all - like every arms control treaty that's come down the pike - it is a barely passable exercise in diplomacy, but hardly "arms control" in any real sense.


Either the GOP has caved on START or the president has convinced enough Republicans that the treaty is an overriding issue of national security.

Lynn Sweet:


The Obama White House has the votes to ratify the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, with the Senate preparing for a vote this week, the Sun-Times has learned. The debate could come as early as Wednesday, after the vote on the tax package Obama negotiated with the Republicans. The Senate on Monday was advancing the tax legislation, with enough votes to end debate.

The New START vote will proceed because of a loophole in the Nov. 29 letter all 42 Republicans signed not to advance legislation until the tax deal and government funding bills are passed. The Senate is tentatively set to take up the funding measure at the end of the week.

The Nov. 29 letter states that the GOP senators will "not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all Americans. THE LOOPHOLE: A vote to ratify a treaty is different under Senate rules than a vote to advance legislation, which needs a cloture vote. No cloture vote will be needed for the Senate to take up New START.

Call it the "Let's not be beastly to the Russians" treaty. Flawed as it is, not approving the treaty will have serious repercussions in our relations with Putin. With the Joint Chiefs behind it and most of the foreign policy establishment, you either have to make the argument that these people want the US to approve a bad treaty, or that it is as good as we can get and won't damage national security.

I lean toward the latter, although I think the verification regime is weak. But I have faith enough in our national technical means to discover if the Russians are cheating or not. So I'm not going to be too hard on Republicans who vote for it.

It won't sit well with the missile defense crowd but there is nothing specific in the treaty that precludes us from deploying our own missile defense. All in all - like every arms control treaty that's come down the pike - it is a barely passable exercise in diplomacy, but hardly "arms control" in any real sense.


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