New START clears final hurdle, on track for ratification tomorrow

NEW START CLEARS FINAL HURDLE, ON TRACK FOR RATIFICATION TOMORROW…. As recently as Sunday, the fate of the pending nuclear arms treaty, New START, was very much in doubt. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved forward anyway, confident that votes would come together. He scheduled the last procedural hurdle — overcoming a Republican filibuster — for this afternoon.

As we learned about an hour ago, the treaty’s future appears bright.

The Senate voted 67 to 28 on Tuesday to advance a new arms control treaty that would pare back American and Russian nuclear arsenals, reaching the two-thirds margin needed for approval despite a concerted Republican effort to block ratification.

Eleven Republicans joined every Democrat present to support the treaty, known as New Start, which now heads to a seemingly certain final vote of approval on Wednesday, as the Senate wraps up business before heading out of town. Voting against the treaty were 28 Republicans who argued that it could hurt national security.

The majority was 67 votes, but it would have been 69 were it not for two Democratic senators’ absences — Oregon’s Ron Wyden is recovering from cancer surgery, and Indiana’s Evan Bayh is on some self-congratulatory tour of his own state. A Republican, New Hampshire’s Judd Gregg, had also expressed support, but for whatever reason, did not vote today. Whether they’ll be on hand for the ratification vote is unclear, but if so, the final majority should be over 70 votes.

Regardless, with 67 votes today, ratification no longer appears in doubt. The 11 Republican votes came from Alexander (Tenn.), Bennett (Utah), Brown (R-Mass.), Cochran (R-Miss.) Collins (R-Maine), Corker (R-Tenn.), Isakson (R-Ga.), Lugar (R-Ind.), Murkowski (R-Alaska), Snowe (R-Maine), and Voinovich (R-Ohio).

Of these, Alexander and Murkowski were the only two who had not yet expressed support for the measure before today.

The Democratic leadership indicated today that a ratification vote will likely be held tomorrow.

In the meantime, the 28 senators opposed to the treaty, all of them conservative Republicans, did not enjoy their day. At one point this morning, in a breathtaking display, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) apologized to Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who was standing nearby, because their colleagues have the audacity to overlook Kyl’s incoherent and dishonest whining and bizarre habit of moving the goalposts after the White House agreed to Kyl’s demands.

“To Senator Kyl,” Graham said, “I want to apologize to you for the way you’ve been treated by your colleagues.”

The nerve. Democrats voted on a pending treaty? And didn’t give Kyl veto power over U.S. foreign policy? And insisted on listening to the unanimous judgment of military and diplomatic leaders, instead of the bitter tirades of a confused senator? What were they thinking?

Or as Greg Sargent put it, “Yeah, right: It’s an absolute outrage that these Senators are prioritizing their own sense of what’s right for the country and the world, over the influence, standing and fragile ego of a single fellow Senator.”

No word yet on whether Democrats should expect an apology from Kyl for the way he treated them.