The Senate just voted 67-28 for cloture on New START. This ends debate on the treaty and means a final vote is likely tomorrow. 11 Republicans voted for cloture and in a press conference after the vote, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) said three other senators Judd Gregg (R-NH), Evan Bayh (D-IN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are all for the treaty. Senator Kerry remarked, “In today’s Senate, 70 votes is yesterday’s 95.”
With the support of Senator Gregg that would mean 12 Republicans look set to vote for the treaty. This means more than a quarter of the Republican caucus broke with the Senate Republican leadership, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), both of whom came out strongly against the treaty this past Sunday. The vote is a big blow to the leadership, especially to Senator Kyl, who was long seen as the Republican point man on the treaty. Kyl even held a desperate press conference today in one last attempt to whip his own party, prompting Josh Rogin to report:
Everyone here on Capitol Hill is beginning to see the ratification of New START as increasingly inevitable — everyone, that is, except for Sen. Jon Kyl.
Senator Lindsey Graham was so outraged that Republican Senators would side with Richard Lugar (R-IN), instead of Kyl, that in a press conference today, Graham actually apologized to Kyl on behalf of his Republican colleagues:
To Senator Kyl, I want to apologize to you for the way you’ve been treated by your colleagues.
Greg Sargent at the Washington Post rebuked Graham:
Senators who are voting to ratify New START because they believe it’s the right thing to do should feel apologetic to Kyl for defying his wishes, even though the evidence is overwhelming that Kyl’s objections have been thoroughly addressed? Yeah, right: It’s an absolute outrage that these Senators are prioritizing their own sense of what’s right for the country and the world, over the influence, standing and fragile ego of a single fellow Senator.