Senate Republicans deliberately excluded any reference to ratification of a New START treaty in a letter in which all 42 members of the GOP conference pledged to filibuster "any legislative item" until expiring Bush-era income tax cuts are extended, GOP senators and aides said.
As a treaty, New START is not a legislative item and does not need a cloture vote, though it needs 67 votes for ratification.
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In omitting START from their letter, Senate Republicans left the door wide open for a grand bargain, explicit or not, in which Democrats agree to a temporary extension of tax cuts in exchange for action on START and perhaps other items, such as extension of unemployment benefits.
"START was left out," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
Corker, who is working with Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., in talks with the White House on ratifying START, said the letter purposefully excluded reference to START to avoid preventing action on the treaty even before tax cuts are considered.
Corker was among the Republicans who voted in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to send the treaty to the floor.