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START’s Lame-Duck Prospects Take a Huge Hit



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The Wall Street Journal reports that eight crucial Senate Republicans are announcing even as I write that they won’t vote to ratify New START in the lame duck:

Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Thune of South Dakota,Christopher Bond of Missouri, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, George LeMieux of Florida and Mark Kirk of Illinois have called a press conference for 2:45 p.m. today to announce their opposition to ratification of the treaty during the lame-duck session.

Sens. Alexander and Kirk had given favorable signals about the treaty, and White House officials considered Sen. LeMieux a likely vote. Treaties need 67 senators for ratification.

That still leaves a number of Republican wildcards:

Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona, Scott Brownof Massachusetts, George Voinovich of Ohio, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Robert Bennett of Utah have all expressed some degree of support. Sen. Voinovich, in his farewell address to the Senate, said today he wanted a vote before he retires this year.

UPDATE: The read-aloud has been called off, as Democrats have agreed to run the clock anyway, getting debate delayed until tomorrow whilst saving the clerk’s voice. Unclear whether DeMint may have also found the read-aloud redundant in light of the new wave of GOP opposition to lame-duck ratification.

UPDATE II: DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton sends along the official reasoning for calling off the read-aloud:

“Senator DeMint opposes ramming the controversial START Treaty in the lame duck session. After Senator DeMint asked for the entire treaty to be read aloud to slow down the process, Senator Reid relented and agreed to delay the debate until tomorrow.” 

Meanwhile, Dave Weigel has more from the Kyl et. al. presser, and says its unclear the Republicans have the 34 votes to block ratification:

 

“To do this the way we’re doing it in an attenuated fashion is not right,” said Florida Sen. George LeMieux. “The idea that we’re going to take up the solemn responsibility of a treaty with Russia and at the same time approve an omnibus spending bill is impossible.”

South Dakota’s John Thune, one of three members of the leadership at the presser, made a purely political argument: Democrats looked “incompetent” by holding this vote in the lame duck. “The Democrat leadership somehow thinks that being here Christmas week is an act of courage,” said Thune, suggesting that Americans were asking “What’s wrong with these guys? Why can’t they get their work done in a reasonable time?”

I’ve seen reporting, before this announcement, suggesting that the decision of these senators to bail on the treaty meant that the treaty is dead. It’s not quite clear yet. Asked point-blank whether he had the votes to stop the treaty, Kyl only said that the people assembled with him “want to vote for the treaty” but can’t, which is different than saying he has 34 votes to stop it.



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