Josh Rogin reported last night that a Senate Republican aide says Senate Republicans are going to offer potentially “treaty killing amendments” if Sen. Harry Reid every brings START to the floor. While leaking this is no doubt designed by Senate Republicans to give Democrats pause and potentially make them balk at bringing up the treaty, the fact is that this shouldn’t be a big deal.
Amendments only require 50 votes to be defeated so a unified Democratic caucus can defeat any Republican effort to kill the treaty through the amendment process. While Republicans could use the amendment process to run out the clock, the fact is that they would most likely only be delaying their own Christmas break.
The Senate Republican aide quoted by Rogin, most likely to Senator Kyl, even put forth this nonsensical argument:
If the treaty is actually in the national interest of both nations, as the administration claims, then there can be no such thing as a ‘treaty killer’ amendment… But this is part and parcel of the Administration’s failure, since day one, to respect the Senate’s role of advice and consent.
If this is the best argument they can make, then START should coast to victory.
First, if you offer an amendment that alters a treaty than clearly that would likely alter whether each country still perceives that treaty to be in their national interest. Therefore these amendments are in fact treaty killers, because they threaten to reopen and therefore unravel months and months of painstakingly balanced negotiations. If the Senate amends the treaty, such that it requires reopening negotiations with Russia, than the Russian Duma would likely do exactly the same thing and would offer amendments that the US would perceive as against our interests. Therefore any Senate Republican amendment that requires a new round of negotiations with the Russians is a transparent effort by Senator Kyl to kill the treaty.
Second, the notion that opposing treaty killing amendments means the administration does not “respect the Senate’s role of advice and consent” is laughable. The senate has had nine months to review the treaty, more than 20 hearings have been held, and the administration has answered 1,000 questions from the Senate on the treaty. The Senate gets to “advice and consent” by choosing whether or not to vote for the treaty.
Finally, it’s important to note that the laundry list of endorsers — the entire US military establishment, President George H.W. Bush, every living Secretary of State, more than 40 ed boards of newspapers around the country — all support the treaty as written. If Senator Kyl offers and allows Republican amendments to go forward that if passed would kill the treaty, than he is essentially repudiating the US military and all these other Republican endorsers. In other words, he is just showing that he is willing to put politics above the security of the United States.
The fact is that despite any obstruction from Kyl, the treaty has the support of enough Republicans to be ratified as is.