START Will Die If It Waits Until Next Year

Finally, after months of playing hard to get Kyl shows his true colors – he is the far right partisan extremist everyone thought he was. Yesterday Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said he would work “very hard” to make sure the New START “treaty fails.” With this move Kyl has shown that he absolutely cannot be trusted on the START treaty.

It is now obvious that all of the negotiations over nuclear weapons funding over the past year were just part of a stalling strategy. Senator Kyl never intended to support the treaty in this session. This was pretty apparent early on, as I noted back in February, May, June, July, August, September at every step of the way Kyl has urged delay.

Now Kyl and some other Republicans are jumping up and down saying lets just vote in January! This is not credible. And Harry Reid and the White House should not trust anything Kyl says or promises. The idea that there will be a vote in January or February is a myth. Only the most naive in the ways of Washington would believe differently. Let’s be clear: delaying a vote likely means the death of the treaty.

First of all, the treaty ratification process will have to start all over. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee could technically vote the treaty out of committee again immediately, but with a change in members on both sides of the aisle, new hearings will be insisted upon by the new minority members. New Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), among others, have in fact already demanded this. Therefore, these new round of hearings will take time. So we are likely looking at a delay in the committee vote until about April.

If the treaty is voted out of committee, it will then need Senate floor time and will need the votes of 15 Republicans instead of 9. And to make the ratification math even harder, some of these new Republicans are replacing more moderate Republicans, such as Bob Bennett (R-UT) and George Voinovich (R-OH). The treaty will therefore be firmly in the hands of the Senate Republican leadership.

There is no reason to believe that Kyl will be in any rush to ratify the treaty in the new year. In fact, one can already predict the new excuses for delay. First, it will be needing to wait for the new President’s budget, then it will be because we need to guarantee that the congress approves the new spending in the FY12 budget, then some low level Russian official will say something about not liking missile defense and Kyl will say “see we can’t do the treaty” or “we need more time.”

On top of all this, the 2012 election starts in full swing next year. With Republican candidates tripping over themselves to move to the right (Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin have already come out in opposition to the treaty), the chances that the Republican leadership in the Senate would provide President Obama a “victory,” however slight a victory, becomes increasingly less likely.

So while it might not be now or never for the START treaty, it will certainly be perceived that way in Moscow and other capitals around the world. And the implications of its failure, or perceived failure will be very serious.