Wednesday, November 17, 2010

START Stopped? Kyl fires torpedo at US-Russia arms pact

image It doesn’t look like Obama’s key issue in the lame duck session is going to get off to a good… START.  Senator John Kyl fired a likely lethal warhead into the pact’s prospects before January. Though the national media likes to point to the New START Treaty as Obama’s “signature foreign policy accomplishment,” treaties require ratification by two-thirds of the US Senate so nothing is “accomplished” unless the President proceeds with negotiations he thinks will pass the upper chamber.

Republican and Democrats in the Senate had reservations about the deal, but the stubborn plow mule plugged ahead anyway, and came back with a deal that faces little bipartisan support in the current Congress and is certain to see a long, slow death in the 112th.

With a terse statement, Sen. Jon Kyl dealt a major setback to President Barack Obama’s efforts to improve ties with Russia and to his broader strategy for reducing nuclear arms worldwide. The treaty, known as New START, had been seen as one of Obama’s top foreign policy accomplishments.

Without the support of Kyl, the leading Republican voice on the treaty, Democrats have little hope of securing at least eight Republican votes — the minimum they would need for ratification in the current Senate.

Kyl’s position, unless reversed, would delay the vote until the newly elected Senate, with an expanded Republican minority, has been sworn in in January. Democrats would then need the support of at least 14 Republicans.

The White House has been trying to avoid that fate, knowing that ratification could slip out of reach in the face of opposition to the treaty from most Republicans and an increasingly partisan political environment in Washington.

At a minimum, that probably would set the treaty back for months, because Republicans are likely to demand new hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee so that newly elected lawmakers would be briefed.

Things are going from bad to worse for Obama. His party got walloped in the November 2 midterms.  His grand tour of the Far East sent him home all but empty handed.  The liberal bastions in the House and Senate are consolidating progressive power in a smaller, more ideologically pure caucus, and he can’t seem to get any traction in the first week of what’s sure to be a short lame duck session.

Smelling more and more like a one-and-done President, ain’t he?