The remarkable aspect of Jon Kyl’s (R-AZ) appearance on Meet the Press was his unwillingness to attack the START treaty. When asked repeatedly by David Gregory if he would drop his opposition to START, Kyl used Senate process as a way of dodging the question. Kyl merely insisted that it would hard to bring up START because of the lack of time in the Senate calendar.
DAVID GREGORY: But Senator, you’re not being responsive…what’s your issue? Well, what’s your issue with the — the treaty?
KYL: As I told you, my issue is that you can’t do everything. I was stating it as a matter of reality, not a matter of policy. How can Harry Reid do all of the things we’ve talked about, deal with the expiring tax provisions, and in addition to that deal with the START Treaty, which by itself could probably take at least two weeks?
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After being pressed again about his substantive qualms, Kyl then went on to insist that there was no rush and alluded to some mythical “issues” around missile defense. But the significant element here is that Kyl essentially refused to directly attack the treaty. Kyl is in effect both giving himself space to eventually support the treaty and space to obstruct it. By saying there are “issues,” gives Kyl room to delay or obstruct a vote by putting forth a series of endless amendments that would run out the clock on the Senate calendar. Kyl was overt about the obstruction threat when he stated:
We have three weeks to go before the Christmas recess. And there are, in my opinion, a lot of amendments that have to be raised on this treaty. And as a result, colleagues are going to offer those amendments. Is Harry Reid just gonna shut it off and say, “We only have three days?
First of all, treaties, for all intents and purposes, cannot be amended. If the Senate actually amends a treaty, that change would have to be agreed to by the other countries party to the treaty — in this case Russia. This means reopening the treaty negotiations, which is just not going to happen. Therefore any amendment that alters the treaty will have to be voted down on the floor for the treaty to remain viable. In essence, Kyl’s threat to raise “a lot of amendments” is a threat to make the process take a very long time.
Secondly, there is no reason why the New START treaty should take longer than three days. As David Gregory noted, the SORT treaty under the George W. Bush administration took just two days. The original START treaty took just five days — and that was the first treaty of its kind. The New START treaty merely updates the original treaty, meaning that three days should be plenty of time to debate and vote on New START.
All this shows is that Kyl is cynically using the START treaty as a hostage, demanding in exchange for its passage that Reid push aside other priorities. But as Dick Durbin noted on Meet the Press:
Well, I can just tell you that — if you — people across America who subscribe for cable ask for refunds when they turn on C-SPAN and see the Senate there day after day doing nothing. Lurching from filibuster to filibuster. Come on, let’s be reasonable. Let’s be constructive. Let’s be bipartisan. We can get these things done.