Kyl: Senate Democrats "very partisan" on START Treaty
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and seven other Republican senators on Tuesday held firm in their opposition to ratifying a new U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty during Congress' lame-duck session, even as the agreement appears on track to clear a key procedural hurdle and could reach a final vote as early as Wednesday.
Speaking at a Capitol Hill news conference with Republican Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John Thune (S.D.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Jim Risch (Idaho) and Jim DeMint (S.C.), Kyl reiterated that "the administration did not negotiate a good treaty" and took aim at Senate Democrats for opposing several Republican-sponsored amendments that have been proposed in recent days.
"That shows a very partisan approach to this treaty," Kyl said, adding that very few members "are on the floor really thinking about this, and frankly, the other side does not have an open mind about accepting anything."
Speaking with reporters after the news conference, Kyl declined to say whether he sees Republicans using the full 30 hours available for debate on the treaty, saying that "it depends on what kind of cooperation we get from the other side in getting some amendments up." He also deflected a question on whether he believes the treaty has enough votes for ratification.
"I'm trying to focus on first things first," Kyl said.
Asked about a letter by Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, urging senators to back the treaty in the interest of national security, Kyl responded: "It is nothing new. ... That is a difference of opinion between us."
Graham, once considered among the Republicans likely to back the New START treaty, has been increasingly vocal in his opposition to passing it during the lame duck session. He renewed that criticism on Tuesday, calling the treaty's possible ratification "a monumental mistake."
"From a Republican point of view, it's not about aborting START," Graham said. "It's about getting the best deal possible, and I just don't understand why we can't wait five more weeks."
Even as opponents of START stepped up their resistance, the momentum on Tuesday was clearly on the side of ratification as Tennessee Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced their support.
Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who on Monday underwent surgery for prostate cancer, likely won't be present for the final vote. A Wyden spokesperson said that the senator is recovering in Washington, D.C., and was told by the White House and Democratic leaders that his vote wouldn't be necessary for the treaty's ratification. The spokesperson added that if Wyden's vote does become necessary, he "will find a way to be here."
If Wyden is the only senator absent, the treaty will need 66 votes in order to be ratified.
| December 21, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
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