Jackson Diehl reported on the latest problem for the administration regarding START ratification. As a simple vote-counting measure, it appears the White House is one vote short. Eight Republican Senators -- Jon Kyl, Lamar Alexander, John Thune, Chris Bond, Orrin Hatch, Saxby Chambliss, George LeMieux and Mark Kirk -- who were critical votes for the White House to sway -- have come out in an afternoon press conference against ratification.
Bond's office released excerpts of his remarks this afternoon: "There are a number of problems with this treaty - from requiring unilateral cuts to our arsenal to giving Russia essentially a 'vote' on missile defense decisions. But as Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, my biggest problem with this very flawed treaty is that the U.S. will lack any reliable means of verifying Russian compliance with its warhead limit. Unless your head has been buried in the sand the last 50 years, you can't ignore that Moscow has a very poor track record of complying with arms treaties. Members on both sides of the aisle have been throwing around words like irresponsible. In my book, there is nothing MORE irresponsible than for any of my colleagues to vote to ratify this treaty BEFORE reviewing the very disturbing classified information on this verification issue."
The number needed for ratification: 67; the number the White House presumably has: 66. So where do we go from here? I would not yet count the White House down and out on this. A plugged-in Republican tells me the administration "can promise the moon and the stars to whoever flips first." But if they haven't pulled out all the stops now, he observes, the White House may in fact have come up short.
A Republican adviser (whose boss is not one of the eight) tells me that it is "hard to give it Last Rites just yet. But it would sure be a helluva lot easier for Sen. Reid to just declare that we'll take it up at a date certain in January of February." But then, the White House will have far fewer solid Democratic votes.
The bottom line: START is on life support, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision to plunk down a monstrous omnibus spending bill is certainly not going to help move the calendar along.
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