Posted Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010, at 2:32 PM
And the work of the 111th Congress grinds to a close, with no need for the much-fear Christmas eve or post-Christmas sessions. After the compromise with Coburn, the 9/11 first responders bill passed by unanimous consent, an afterthought right before the START vote. The treaty was ratified in a 71-26 vote.
Looking at this votes, and taking literally the speeches made by critical Republicans, it seems like START could have passed in the 112th Congress next month. Only three Republican "aye" voters are being replaced, and it's up in the air whether Kelly Ayotte, Mike Lee and Rob Portman would have voted against the treaty. They signed a letter opposing a lame duck vote on START, but not START itself. Incoming Senators John Boozman and John Hoeven, who are replacing Democrats, also signed that letter. Incoming Senators Dan Coats and Pat Toomey did not sign it.
So, worst case Democratic scenario, the 71 votes for this treaty become 66 votes. But John Kyl, Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch and Mark Kirk never expressed an objection to the treaty passing in 2011, after more debate. You start to see the GOP's point when senators like John Thune argue that the White House pushed this quickly to get a big victory. At the same time, the legislative fight matters, and we won't ever know what would have happened to START's momentum in a new Senate.