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Posted at 4:47 PM ET, 12/15/2010

Senate votes to open debate on New START

By Felicia Sonmez and Mary Beth Sheridan

The Senate on Wednesday voted to open debate on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, with lawmakers slated to begin debate on the measure Thursday morning.

The 66-to-32 vote was well above the simple-majority threshold necessary to proceed and was an auspicious first step for the U.S.-Russia nuclear treaty, which would require 67 votes for ratification.

Joining Democrats in voting for the measure were Republican Sens. Bob Bennett (Utah), Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Richard Lugar (Ind.), John McCain (Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and George Voinovich (Ohio) as well as independent Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.).

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) missed the vote but Reuters, citing an aide, reported that he would provide the 67th needed for ratification. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) also did not vote.

The progress on the legislation came amid vocal opposition from some Republicans, including an aborted effort by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) to force a reading of the entire legislation on the Senate floor in an attempt to delay consideration of the measure.

On Wednesday morning, it appeared that a reading of the bill was all but imminent. DeMint said through a spokesperson that he had "made it clear that he's going to use every tool available to stop it from being rammed through during the lame duck session."

That led to a barrage of criticism from the White House, which slammed DeMint by name in a statement from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. "This is a new low in putting political stunts ahead of our national security, and it is exactly the kind of Washington game-playing that the American people are sick of," Gibbs said.

Shortly before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also took aim at DeMint and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the leading opponent of the treaty, saying that Senate Republicans "need look no further than themselves" in casting blame for the Senate's harried schedule as the lame-duck session enters its final days.

"I'm told that Republicans are going to make us read the entire treaty in an effort to stall us from passing it," Reid said on the Senate floor. "Isn't that wonderful? That treaty has been here since April or May of this year; there was plenty of time to read it. These are additional days of wasted time we could be using to pass legislation and get home for the holidays, yet some of my Republican colleagues have the nerve to whine about having to stay in action and do the work that the American people pay us to do."

After it was clear that the measure had passed, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) acknowledged reports that the GOP might force a reading of the entire treaty. "Our view that is not essential," McConnell said.

DeMint's office said in a statement after the vote that he had agreed not to force a reading of the treaty because Reid had agreed to put off debate until Thursday morning.

"Senator DeMint opposes ramming the controversial START Treaty in the lame duck session," DeMint spokesperson Wesley Denton said. "After Senator DeMint asked for the entire treaty to be read aloud to slow down the process, Senator Reid relented and agreed to delay the debate until tomorrow."

In a news conference after Wednesday's vote, a group of ten Senate Republicans including Kyl and the Senate's newest member, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), reiterated their opposition to moving forward on the treaty during the lame-duck session.

"The START treaty is a very important document and there are very important ramifications that need to be thoroughly considered with appropriate amendments and sufficient time to consider them," Kyl said. "And for the leader to suggest that for a couple of days this week -- and then whatever time there may remain next week before Christmas -- is adequate time to consider the treaty, right up against the Christmas holiday, is of course -- well I'll just say I think it's quite inappropriate."

The treaty, signed in April, would cap the number of deployed, long-range nuclear warheads on each side at 1,550, a reduction of up to 30 percent from current levels. In addition, it would re-establish a system in which the United States and Russia send inspectors to monitor each other's nuclear stockpiles, a measure that U.S. military officials consider important to maintaining stability among the world's two nuclear titans. A similar inspection system existed for 15 years, until the START 1 treaty expired last year.

The administration is eager to get New START approved before the new Congress takes over next year. Currently, at least nine Republican votes are needed to pass the treaty. But, because of Democratic losses in the November mid-term elections, that number will grow to 14 Republicans next year.

Kyl has insisted as a condition of approving the treaty that the administration provide billions more dollars to modernize the aging U.S. nuclear complex. Some Republicans have also expressed concern that the treaty could affect U.S. plans to develop a missile defense system aimed at stopping nuclear-tipped rockets that could someday be fired at the United States by countries like North Korea or Iran. The administration has said the pact will not affect its plans for missile defense.

The administration argues there has been plenty of time for senators to consider the treaty. Senate committees have held 20 hearings on New START, and administration officials have answered about 1,000 questions for the record.

By Felicia Sonmez and Mary Beth Sheridan  | December 15, 2010; 4:47 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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The lying GOP / T Party lapdogs Kyl and DeMint are busy telling lies so that

a) President Obama looks bad and,

b) their defense lobby buddies get more and more payoffs so that :

c ) the American taxpayer would have to pay even MORE on the debt.

What a pair of pathetic, hypocritical LOSERS.

Posted by: StevenK3 | December 15, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

sorry, DREAM Act

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | December 15, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Senate has to take up DADT now. Don't forget, the DRAM Act is still on the table.

Has anyone heard when recess begins???

rumor has it that they aren't going on it...

would be lovely if they all had to work Xmas. Like millions of Americans actually do.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | December 15, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

DeMint is being reckless and irresponsible. He needs to stop with this drivel.

Posted by: Nymous | December 15, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

JFK gave us away.

Posted by: dottydo | December 15, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Kyle and DeMint. Remember those names. They played with your lives, your children's lives, your grandchildren's lives.


And it payed off with tax cuts for the rich.

Thanks for NOTHING, O'Bummer.

Posted by: Benson | December 15, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

If only the President would have started challenging the crap that comes of these so-called Republicans months ago. He's let them get away with so many of their Big Lies that the American public is actually believing them.

I don't get it. During the Presidential election the Obama campaign responded quickly and forcefully to the Republican smear campaign. Since he's been President, he's allowed the smear campaign to continue without refuting its Big Lies.

Wake up Mr. President. The Republicans' sole goal has been to make your Presidency fail and prevent your re-election. Watch Mitch McConnell's Nov. 5 2008 press conference again and again where he comes out and says the Republicans' goal is to prevent your re-election.

They've let national security fall by the wayside. They've done all they can to sabotage your efforts to revive the economy. They would rather harm the American public than let you succeed -- all for their political benefit. If that ain't treasonous, what is?

Posted by: dl49 | December 15, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Kyle and DeMint. Remember those names. They played with your lives, your children's lives, your grandchildren's lives.

Posted by: jimsteinberg1 | December 15, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

And they use to whine about the Senate having 100 generals.

Posted by: WmLaney | December 15, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

BaSically the so called conservative wing of the GOP has no interest in this treaty. There is no real enemy here for them to flog their domestic opponents with but they'll be damned if they'll give any Democrat a victory of any kind minus the kicking and screaming. The best they can do is seek some more funding for moderization and make that look like their stronger on defense. Pretty silly.

Posted by: kchses1 | December 15, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

The people America desires to make this treaty with stand every May Day atop Lenin's Tomb. That the USSR is gone is a fact, but the ideology is not gone. It is still freedom versus tyranny, and if this is not put into the equation of the Senate as they make their decisions, America shall be moving toward disaster. New Start should not be ratified. The Senate needs time to consider all the variables. This should not be about belief, or hope; but based on facts. There should be a nuclear freeze with modernization - and continued discussions with Russia and China about human rights and all the other salient facts surrounding our relations. Take the time needed U.S. Senate. Please.

Posted by: michaelyjohnson | December 15, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Maybe someone needs to explain the big words to DeMint. If only Rupert could put out a daily in crayon. Or a Loony Tunes Fox broadcast. Form would then truly follow function.

Posted by: clear_eyed_man | December 15, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Maybe someone needs to explain the big words to DeMint. If only Rupert could put out a daily in crayon. Or a Loony Tunes Fox broadcast. Form would then truly follow function.

Posted by: clear_eyed_man | December 15, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Maybe someone needs to explain the big words to DeMint. If only Rupert could put out a daily in crayon. Or a Loony Tunes Fox broadcast. Form would then truly follow function.

Posted by: clear_eyed_man | December 15, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

I heard on the radio just today that Russia is starting a new missile program.

So you can forget about them adhering to the START Treaty.

I think the US was a made a patsy by the Russians.

Posted by: janet8 | December 15, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

See, I KNEW it.

Obama sold out the middle class and gave away tax cuts for the rich in order to get a political win on the START treaty.

It would have passed anyway, but Obama wanted it in the lame duck session.

O'Bummer is a sellout.

Posted by: Benson | December 15, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Somebody needs to throw a shoe at Kyle and then give him an atomic noogie...

Posted by: WmLaney | December 15, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

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