The Corner

START Stopped in the Lame Duck?

Prospects for a vote on New START in the lame-duck Senate look increasingly bad, with two key Republicans expressing new concerns.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.), whose lead Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said he’d follow, has come out against considering the treaty during the lame duck:

Kyl, in a statement released Tuesday morning, said he had told Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) that “I did not think” the treaty could be considered during the lame-duck session because of other congressional work “and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization.”

“I appreciate the recent effort by the administration to address some of the issues we have raised and I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Kerry” and the administration, Kyl said.

The Washington Post called the Kyl announcement “a potentially ruinous setback” and reported that the administration ‘will make a last-ditch effort Wednesday to appeal to Kyl, the Republicans’ main negotiator, in a meeting including Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.”

Meanwhile, retiring Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio), a moderate who many thought would support the treaty, today “took to the well of the Senate to voice his concerns that Russia could be backsliding toward aggressive territoriality, imperiling the “captive nations” of Eastern Europe.”

“Political expediency should never be an excuse to rush to judgment on public policy let alone our national security,” he said. “I cannot in good conscience determine my support for the treaty until the administration assures me our ‘reset policy’ with Russia is a policy that enhances rather than diminishes the national security of our friends and allies throughout Europe.”

I’d say ratification in the lame duck is down to about a 1-in-5 chance at this point.

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