Greasing the skids for New START ratification

GREASING THE SKIDS FOR NEW START RATIFICATION…. The Obama administration and several key senators are still anxious to ratify the New START nuclear treaty during the lame-duck session. They’ll need 67 votes, and by all accounts, they’re close.

The biggest obstacle at this point appears to be Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who, oddly enough, has said he’ll try to kill the treaty unless the White House agrees to spend more money on the U.S. nuclear arsenal. (Usually, conservative lawmakers threaten to kill measures to ensure less spending, not more.)

Yesterday, the White House moved to satisfy Kyl’s concerns, and hopefully, bring New START closer to ratification.

In a last-minute bid to save a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, the Obama administration has offered to spend $4 billion more over five years on the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, congressional sources said Friday.

President Obama has made passage of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, one of his top priorities for the lame-duck session starting next week. Officials worry that the pact could face long delays, or even fail, if it is put off until next year, when the Democrats’ Senate majority will shrink.

Republicans have conditioned their support for the treaty on a big budget increase to fix up the country’s aging weapons-production facilities.

Administration officials reportedly visited individually with skeptical Republican senators yesterday, outlining the commitment of $4.1 billion in funding. The AP added, “In a sign of the urgency of the administration’s pitch, government officials traveled to Kyl’s home state of Arizona to brief him on the proposal, the aide said.”

That should at least make Kyl feel important.

While we wait, it’s been almost a year since U.S. inspectors lost the ability to keep tabs on Russian nukes. The Pentagon is anxious to have the treaty ratified so checks can be reinstated — this is the first time in 15 years we’ve lost the ability to inspect Russian long-range nuclear bases — but Senate Republicans still aren’t in any hurry.

Part of the problem has to do with basic ignorance. Jon Kyl conceded in August that he just assumed, falsely, that nuclear-site inspections were continuing while he held up New START. In other words, he just didn’t know what he was talking about.

Republican obstructionism isn’t just based on knee-jerk, reactionary tendencies; sometimes it’s also often based on Republican ignorance about issues of global importance.