Kyl’s bad faith on New START

KYL’S BAD FAITH ON NEW START…. It seems to have been largely forgotten, but back in July, two months after American and Russian leaders had come to terms on New START, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) raised some mild concerns. Kyl, the GOP’s point man on the nuclear arms treaty, said so long as the Obama administration committed necessary resources to maintaining and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Republicans would consider the rest of the treaty “relatively benign.”

The White House was pleased. After all, Kyl’s concerns were easy to address, and the administration quickly announced that they would gladly commit to Kyl’s requests. Leading administration officials met with Kyl privately, and mapped out in detail how they’re prepared to do exactly what he asked them to do. Even Jon Kyl, with his limited intellect, should have been able to understand when someone says “yes” to his demands.

But it doesn’t matter.

It’s official: Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl will not vote for ratification of the START treaty in its current state.

The Senate GOP point man on the nuclear arms agreement told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that without any amendments, he could not vote for the treaty.

“This treaty needs to be fixed. We’re not going to have time to do that,” the Senate minority whip said.

Kyl is, of course, just making things up as he goes along, inventing new reasons to oppose the treaty — reasons that don’t make any sense to anyone who actually gives a damn about the policy. It’s as if Kyl identified how best to negotiate in good faith, and then chose to do the exact opposite.

Likewise, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced he’ll oppose the treaty, too, muttering something about “trying to rush things right here before Christmas Eve,” which might make more sense if the treaty hasn’t been sitting in the Senate since April.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), meanwhile, whined for a quite a while yesterday on the Senate floor, saying he’s “ignored” the issue of nuclear proliferation because he’s been “pretty busy around here stopping some bad ideas or at least trying to.” The work, he added, has been “really wearing on the body.”

I might suggest that if a U.S. senator can’t keep up with a variety of important issues at the same time, a career in shaping federal policy might not be the best choice.

Putting all of this aside, are the votes going to be there are or not? Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) sounded relatively optimistic this morning, but Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), who’s been fantastic on this issue, was cautious about predicting ratification. To ratify, nine Senate Republicans would have to do the right thing, but at this point, I only see seven firm “yes” votes — Bennett (Utah), Brown (Mass.), Collins (Maine), Lugar (R-Ind.), Murkowski (R-Alaska), Snowe (Maine), and Voinovich (Ohio).

Would every other Republican in the chamber ignore the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, eight former secretaries of state from both parties, five former secretaries of defense from both parties, seven former Strategic Command chiefs, national security advisers from both parties, and nearly all former commanders of U.S. nuclear forces? It’s certainly possible.

Remember, the only organized groups on the planet hoping to see the Senate fail to ratify this treaty are Iranian officials, North Korean officials, hardliners in Russia, and most Republicans in the nation’s capital.

Update: The Senate considered a poison-pill amendment yesterday, offered by Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and John Barrasso (Wyo.), that would have killed the treaty. It failed, garnering only 37 votes. The good news is, New START cleared the hurdle. The bad news is, far-right senators might use this as an excuse to scuttle the entire initiative and undermine U.S. foreign policy.