START Moves Forward, DeMint Blinks, Republicans Balk at Timing

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 15 2010 2:50 PM

START Moves Forward, DeMint Blinks, Republicans Balk at Timing

The Senate voted 66-32 to get the START treaty to the floor of the Senate, and right afterward, eight Republican senators marched to the Radio/TV gallery for a press conference to declare the impossibility of actually passing the treaty. Their statements started on a positive note, with Jon Kyl announcing that Jim DeMint had backed off a threat to have the treaty read in full, in time-wasting fashion. But they pivoted to arguments that it was unfair to vote on the treaty without more debate.

"To do this the way we're doing it in an attenuated fashion is not right," said Florida Sen. George LeMieux. "The idea that we're going to take up the solemn responsibility of a treaty with Russia and at the same time approve an omnibus spending bill is impossible."

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South Dakota's John Thune, one of three members of the leadership at the presser, made a purely political argument: Democrats looked "incompetent" by holding this vote in the lame duck. "The Democrat leadership somehow thinks that being here Christmas week is an act of courage," said Thune, suggesting that Americans were asking "What's wrong with these guys? Why can't they get their work done in a reasonable time?"

I've seen reporting, before this announcement, suggesting that the decision of these senators to bail on the treaty meant that the treaty is dead. It's not quite clear yet. Asked point-blank whether he had the votes to stop the treaty, Kyl only said that the people assembled with him "want to vote for the treaty" but can't, which is different than saying he has 34 votes to stop it.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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