When Sen. Jon Kyl said he didn't think the New START treaty could be voted on in the lame duck session because of time constraints and unresolved issues, the exasperated sigh from the White House was almost audible. It was the third time the GOP moved to reschedule the vote on the treaty, which was signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April. First, they said it shouldn't be considered before the August recess. Then, in September, they argued that ratifying before the November elections could politicize the voting process.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Richard Lugar held a press conference calling for ratification in the lame duck session. The treaty is "not an issue that can afford to be postponed," Clinton said.
Most say Kyl's vote will determine the actions of most other Senator republicans. But Kyl's clout only stretches so far. Ultimately, it's up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the treaty to the floor for a vote. But is that in the best interests of New START advocates like Clinton, Kerry and Lugar?
Max Bergmann, a nuclear non-proliferation policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, says there's no downside in Reid pushing for a vote. "The leverage the administration has is in forcing the vote, and in preventing this process from getting delayed even further," Bergmann says. "If Kyl is willing to risk national security and vote 'no' on the START treaty because it's being held in the lame duck session, then he's not going to allow a vote, or he's going to vote 'no' later, so you might as well force his hand here."