Graham: If START Fails, Don’t Blame GOP

by Andrew Stiles

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) vented some frustration outside the Senate chamber Friday, pushing back at accusations that Republicans are trying to run out the clock on New START.

“Maybe we’ve been spending a little time trying to beat the $1.2 trillion spending bill that was a monstrosity… Graham told reporters.

But the omnibus is dead, so . . .

“Well, do you think [it’s] dead because we sat on our butt?” he asked. “We’ve been working our ass off, quite frankly, to keep the lame duck from becoming a nightmare for the American people.”

“This lame duck is starting to stink,” Graham said. It was a “special interest bazaar” and a “last spending spree.” Some Democrats, he added, “are going through grief counseling, can’t realize they lost.”

He blamed the Democratic leadership for preventing a productive deliberation on the arms reduction treaty, suggesting it might be better to wait until next year when the new Congress convenes, but refusing to say how he’d vote on ratification. “At the end of the day, this whole use of the time has compromised what I think is a serious and meaningful debate on START,” he said, noting that 14 incoming senators have urged lawmakers to postpone the treaty’s ratification until they take office. Graham told National Review Online earlier in the week that given sufficient time to debate and add amendments, he envisioned 15 to 20 Republican would vote yea in 2011, more than enough to get to the 67 needed for ratification.

“I think we need a treaty,” Graham said. But he would be more open to supporting START in the lame duck if it were the only thing on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s agenda right now. As it stands, Reid has also called for votes on the DREAM Act and DADT repeal. Graham also voiced concerns about the treaty’s preamble. Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) had earlier called for an amendment to include missile defense language in the preamble, which Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass) called a “treaty killer” because the Russians would almost certainly opt out if it were included.

Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been mostly dismissive of Republican concerns, particularly the notion that newly-elected Senators deserve to have a say on ratification. He has said that Democrats have been more than accommodating and have spent ample time debating the treaty already — that it was time for some reciprocity.

Graham disagreed that any significant impetus, or blame, lay with Republicans. “If you really thought the START treaty was very important to the United States, and was something that was worthy of serious consideration, would you have run the Senate this way?” he asked, taking another shot at Reid’s scheduling.

“Every day that goes by it becomes impossible for me … to go to my colleagues and say, ‘Let’s continue to be serious in the lame duck,’” he said.