Rumors blazed across Capitol Hill last week that Sen. John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was working with Sen. Jon Kyl on a secret deal to pass the START treaty before the end of the session. There is no deal, although Kyl, Kerry, and Vice President Biden have discussed Kyl's concerns about the state of the nuclear fleet, including submarines and B-52 bombers. The White House and Kerry are not prepared to sacrifice the treaty for any substantive concession, and the pro-START side remains unclear on whether enough Republicans are ready to support START.
A few Senate Republicans have been critical of the treaty, but most have not voiced concerns. Passing START is a top Obama foreign policy priority, and this week, Democratic allies plan to turn up the volume. Former Sen. Tom Daschle spoke to arms control activists at the Center for American Progress today, and a group of generals formed the "Consensus for American Security."
Politically, the goal is to force Republicans into a box: they choose partisanship or the security of the American people. Yes, this strategy is similar to the scorched earth vanquishing of Democrats that Republicans employed in 2002 and 2004, but with one real difference: since most Republicans haven't really centered on any particular opposition, it is hard to square their opposition (if it exists) with anything other than a desire to deprive Obama of a victory.