On START, Kyl’s Now Irrelevant

The Politico reports that Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) doesn’t think there is enough time to get New START done. Well, at this point, who cares what Kyl thinks. He is no longer pivotal to the ratification effort. The fact is Harry Reid controls the Senate calendar and has pledged to hold a vote on START and enough Republicans now support it to make ratification increasingly likely.

Importantly, you can’t filibuster a treaty, since it only takes 50 votes to start debate. Therefore, the treaty was not included in the letter from the Senate GOP caucus that threatened to block any legislation that came before tax cuts. The danger has always been that Republicans would endlessly delay the final vote on START through pointless and ridiculous amendments – hence Kyl insisting it would take “two weeks” of floor time as opposed to five days for START I and two days for SORT. Kyl’s leverage was in stringing out the process. But Reid now has leverage with the tax cut vote. Every day Republicans delay only pushes back a vote on tax cuts, which only delays their Christmas vacation.

Kyl’s caucus is also rapidly abandoning the untenable talking point that “there is no time” to do the treaty. A wave of Republican Senators have endorsed having a vote on START in the lame duck, Sens. Lugar (R-IN), Judd Gregg (R-NH), George Voinovich (R-OH), Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Bob Bennett (R-UT) are all on record in support of having a vote in the lame duck period. And Republican opponents of the treaty were only able to get 22 Republican members of the caucus to support calling for delay.

To make matters worse for Kyl and treaty opponents, a slew of big time endorsements occurred this week. The START treaty got endorsements from George W. Bush’s Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. And yesterday President George H.W. Bush went public urging the Senate to ratify the treaty. Last week, Senator Susan Collins insisted that the endorsement of George H.W. Bush would persuade her to vote for the treaty – Collins told the Washington Post:

It would be wonderful if President [George H.W.] Bush would come out for the treaty. That would be so powerful and definitely help.

So while Kyl doesn’t think there is time to do the treaty, if enough other people on both sides of the aisle do then that is what matters. As Richard Lugar’s spokesman said today:

The senator [Lugar] is hopeful we can get to it right away next week… We’re optimistic about the number of votes we’re going to get.

It is not about Kyl anymore. It is about whether Harry Reid will ever bring START to the floor.