In Wake of DADT Repeal, New START Looking Shaky

Debate over the treaty gets increasingly bitter--some say the GOP doesn't want to give the president another victory

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The decisive vote on the much-debated New START treaty will happen later this week. Is ratification around the corner? Maybe not. Some Republicans are angry at the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," The New York Times' Peter Baker reports, and the debate is "complicated by a deadlock over government spending and the political subtext about whether the pact's approval would rejuvenate a weakened president after his party's midterm election defeat."

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Jon Kyl have both said they'll oppose the treaty, Baker notes, also noting that this is not a surprise. "The question was how aggressively Mr. McConnell in particular would lobby the handful of wavering Republicans who will decide the matter." Sen. Lindsey Graham, too, now says he opposes the treaty, citing "the sour mood engendered by Democrats forcing votes on other topics in recent days," and calling the lame duck session "poisoned." Democrats publicly say they're confident they have enough votes, but many are nervous. Explains Baker: "What makes the fierce showdown over this treaty so surprising is that compared with most of its predecessors, it is a relatively modest agreement that mainly resumes on-site inspections that lapsed last year and pares down each side's deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 and deployed launchers to 700."

So is obstructionism warranted here? Unsurprisingly, the left and right halves on the blogosphere disagree on this one.

Do Republicans threatening to spike New START because their DADT stonewall broke down perchance remember how Newt Gingrich's confession-cum-boast that he was moved to shut down the government in part because he found himself seated at the back of Air Force One played out? ... Attention, Obama communications team: we're back on Planet Bizarro. Faced with a vote on a nuclear arms treaty supported by seven former commanders of U.S. Strategic Command, six former secretaries of state, five former defense secretaries, the entire current military brass, George H. W. Bush, and presumably Jesus H. Christ (or at least his earthly representatives), Republicans are trotting out the politics of pique again.
  • Complaints About the Ratification Process Are Insincere  "Complaining that you can't vote for nuclear arms treaty that the US military wanted ratified yesterday, because you found it distasteful that you had to vote on unrelated legislation you didn’t like is child like petulance," Think Progress's Max Bergmann writes. And besides, he continues, "nothing about the ratification process has been unusual. ... First, more days of floor time will be devoted to New START than the original START treaty. ... Second, switching from executive session to legislative session is expressly permitted under Senate rules and is commonly done... Third, complaints about the treaty being rushed are total nonsense. ... Finally, Republicans said that the lame duck time was an appropriate time to get the treaty done."
  • The Wrong Issue for Scoring Political Points  "Without the treaty, America will lose the ability to monitor Russia's nuclear arsenal and will pointlessly antagonize a country in a position to aid the U.S. effort in Afghanistan and to help frustrate Iran's nuclear ambitions," , Adam Serwer insists at The Washington Post. "Whether or not the treaty gets ratified ultimately depends on how many Republicans in the Senate are willing to go along with killing New START for the sole purpose of making the president look bad. ... That the treaty's outcome remains in doubt at all is just the latest example of the GOP shamelessly manufacturing controversy over Democrats adopting policies Republicans once embraced."
  • Follow Reagan's Example  "Ronald Reagan knew that in arms control, the United States should play to win," The National Review's Ricahrd Perle and Kim R. Holmes argue. "To do that, it had to be prepared to reject an inadequate deal until a useful one could be achieved." Reagan's INF treaty was a "watershed," but he held out for the Russian concessions he was seeking. In contrast, New START only controls the weapons Russia wants controlled. "New START ... appears to accept the Russian contention that attempts by the United States to protect itself and its allies with missile defenses are destabilizing. ... Reagan never would have shackled our missile-defense program for a treaty that doesn't add to our security."
  • This Is Obamacare All Over, Commentary's Abe Greenwald writes. "The popular myth about the GOP and ObamaCare had it that Republicans on Capitol Hill functioned as just-say-no 'nihilists,' looking to stop any health-care reform and refusing to offer productive solutions." In reality, Greenwald writes, Republican alternatives were just ignored. And they're being ignored now with New START, with GOP amendments shot down. "The new bipartisan spirit means that Democrats are willing to work with the Kremlin, just not with Republicans."
  • Not in America's Interest, Sarah Palin writes for The National Review. "New START actually requires the U.S. to reduce our nuclear weapons and allows the Russians to increase theirs.  This is one-sided and makes no strategic sense.  New START’s verification regime is weaker than the treaty it replaces, making it harder for us to detect Russian cheating. ... Just because we were out-negotiated by the Russians that doesn’t mean we have to say yes to this."
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