New START Ratification Looking Likely

After Sen. Lamar Alexander breaks ranks with GOP leadership to support the agreement

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The New START nuke treaty with Russia is "all but certain" to be ratified by the Senate, Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler reports. The the agreement's future looked grim during much of the lame-duck session of Congress, with Republicans reluctant to compromise with  the White House on yet another issue.

Lamar Alexander, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, broke with GOP leadership and said he would support the treaty Tuesday morning, leading to rosier prognoses. Alexander noted approvingly that even with the reduction in nuclear weapons, the U.S. has enough nukes to bomb bad guys to "kingdom come."

It now appears Democrats have the nine Republicans they need. The six GOP senators officially on board are: Dick Lugar, George Voinovich, Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Alexander. Three likelies are Bob Corker, Judd Gregg, and Thad Cochran. Analysis continues as the Senate inches closer to a vote:

  • Alexander Is a Big Get, ABC News' Matthew Jaffe confirms. The senator asked President Obama to include funds for nuclear modernization in his budget request, and Obama agreed. "His vote is a big boost for Democrats--the treaty now appears likely to pass later this week, barring a last-minute setback. Just last Wednesday Alexander had joined a group of a dozen Republican senators to rail against Democrats for trying to pass the treaty during the lame-duck session of Congress."
  • Military Support May Be Helping  "There is a reason the tide has turned and additional GOP senators have gone on record to say they will support New START," Democracy Arsenal's Kelsey Hartigan notes: "The treaty has the entire support of the United States military leadership. Despite desperate attempts to drag this debate into partisan waters, New START has the bipartisan support it needs.  So take heart, America--there is at least two-thirds of the United States Senate that won't put politics above  national security."
  • Don't Like the Bargaining Here  Heritage Foundation's Owen Graham still isn't happy with New START being tied to money for modernizing existing weaponry. "This is a quid pro quo to make sure that Republicans in the Senate are pressured, by millions in nuclear modernization monies, to vote for the ratification of New START," he says. "The U.S. nuclear infrastructure needs a comprehensive overhaul and is in need of urgent attention ... but this money is modest compared to the need. ... Trading U.S. nuclear modernization funding for a New START vote is a bad idea at any time and would set a dangerous precedent."
  • Why Was the Treaty at Risk at All? Joe Gandelman asks at The Moderate Voice.
What has been most notable about the controversy swirling around the START Treaty’s ratification is that it has become the embodiment of the kind of short-sited, partisan, get even skirmish that seems to be the style of early 21st century American politics. Various news reports noted how some wanted to defeat the treaty for the simple fact that it would be not giving Obama a 'win.' But it has become clear by the number of thoughtful members of past Republican administrations who don’t sound like polarizing talk show hosts when they open their mouths that extremely serious issues were at play here.
  • Dems Getting a Little Smug, Slate's Dave Weigel writes. Weigel noticed Senate Dems' communications staff gave reporters a flier that on the front featured photos "of George H.W. Bush, Richard Lugar, Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton, and five of the former secretaries of state who've endorsed new START. These pictures are accompanied by the caption: 'If you were making a major foreign policy decision affecting massive arsenals of nuclear weapons, would you tend to lean towards the position supported by [these experts] ... '" and notes they have a century of foreign policy experience. On the back is a photo one of the treaty's opponents: Sarah Palin, with a reference to seeing Russia from her house.
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