Lynn Sweet at The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
WASHINGTON–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 vote 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.
If my reading of the Senate rules is right, then this next part in Sweet’s report isn’t:
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 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.
It’s true Reid doesn’t need 60 Senators to bring a treaty to the floor, but thereafter the treaty is still subject to filibusters at the amendment and debate stages.