Sen. Jon Kyl On The New START (Part 1)
It’s a lame-duck Congress, and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the number two Senate Republican, has decided to stop START (part 1) and renege on fiscal responsibility just three days after Republicans adopted the Tea Party vow to just say no to earmarks (part 2).
Earlier this week on MSNBC, Cenk Uygur suggested that Kyl’s opposition to the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is rooted in political contributions from the defense industry as well as the fact that Raytheon Missile Systems has facilities in Arizona. Reportedly, every living Secretary of State — D and R — support the treaty. Joe Klein at Time claims unanimous support “by the U.S. military” as well as “wide” support by “prominent Republicans (like former Secretary of State George Schultz).”
Although he has applied the brakes today, in July 2009, “Kyl said most senators would consider New START ‘relatively benign’ as long as Obama agreed to modernize our nuclear weaponry.” In May 2010, Obama dedicated $80 billion to “upgrade weapons labs and replace or modify aging nuclear missiles.” Kyl wanted another $2.4 billion. Obama offered $4.1 billion.
But Kyl balked anyway despite the Pentagon payoff engineered specifically to garner his support (corruption reported by the NYT, 16 November, emphasis added):
Both parties had considered Mr. Kyl the make-or-break voice on the pact, with Senate Republicans essentially deputizing him to work out a deal that would secure tens of billions of dollars to modernize the nation’s nuclear weapons complex in exchange for approval of the treaty.
Over many months of negotiations, the administration committed to spending $80 billion to do that over the next 10 years, and on Friday offered to chip in $4.1 billion more over the next five years. As a gesture of commitment, the White House had made sure extra money for modernization was included in the stopgap spending resolution now keeping the government operating, even though almost no other program received an increase in money.
All told, White House officials counted 29 meetings, phone calls, briefings or letters involving Mr. Kyl or his staff. They said they thought they had given him everything he wanted, and were optimistic about completing a deal this week, only to learn about his decision on Tuesday from reporters.
Mr. Kyl said he informed the Senate Democratic leader that there was not enough time to resolve all the issues during the lame-duck session that opened this week.
Here’s another voice characterizing Kyl’s maneuvering as an example of corruption and/or partisan politics (emphasis added):
Many Republicans have withheld their support for the treaty to raise the price for their acceptance. They wanted, and have already gotten, tens of billions of dollars slathered on the boondoggle that is the nuclear weapons research and production complex. In a post-Cold War world, much of this largesse is merely a welfare project for the states housing such facilities, rather than having anything to do with national security.
And as James Rubin, former assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, concludes in the New York Times, beefing up the nation’s nuclear weapons complex works at cross-purposes with a nuclear arms control treaty. Kyl seems to be trying to delay consideration of the treaty until Republican reinforcements arrive in the Senate next January… This effectively raises the price of ratification even higher; perhaps Kyl wants more money shoveled to pet missile-defense projects—again contravening the purpose of agreement. Or there is also a possibility that the Republicans simply don’t want to give Obama any success in foreign policy.
On Wednesday 24 November, FOX News reported that a Kyl aide said the Senator would prevent a vote on START during the lame-duck session.
Passage will be more difficult — that is, more Republican votes will be need to meet the two-thirds majority required to ratify a treaty — after January. With Democrats currently holding 57 seats, they need at least 10 other Senators to ratify the treaty (that assumes all Ds vote “yes”). There are 41 Republicans and two “independents” (Sen. Joe Lieberman, CT, Independent Democrat, and Sen. Bernard Sanders, VT, an Independent). After January, Ds will hold only 51 seats, meaning that they would need an additional six Republicans or Independents (16 total) to ratify the treaty.
Need another example of the partisanship nature of this opposition? Flip-flopping via the NYT, emphasis added:
The memo, circulated privately to Republican senators on Wednesday and obtained by The New York Times, was also signed by Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, another important player in the debate. Mr. Corker voted for the New Start treaty when it was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September but now agrees with Mr. Kyl that it should not be rushed to a floor vote during the current lame-duck session of Congress.
Now contrast this partisanship — remember, Kyl was pretty ho-hum on New START back in 2009 — with the bipartisanship exhibited in 1992: Senators ratified START on a 93-6 vote, far in excess of the needed two-thirds majority. And in 1992 Democrats held … wait for it … 57 seats.
It’s not unusual to observe partisan maneuvering during lame-duck sessions of Congress. But on the surface this appears to be not only blatant partisanship but also a major case of back-stabbing, speaking with forked tongue and pandering to the Pentagon defense lobby. A grand ole example of the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex.
More Back Story On A Bi-Partisan Treaty Process:
- President Richard Nixon (R) negotiated the first Russian treatythat limited arms, the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, SALT.
- President Jimmy Carter (D) negotiated the 1979 SALT II treaty.
- President Ronald Reagan (R) presented the first START proposal on 29 June 1982.
- President George Bush (R) the elder signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START I, 31 July 1991; it became effective on 5 December 1994 (Clinton Administration) and expired 5 December 2009 (Obama Administration); both sides agreed to continue observing the treaty until a new agreement could be reached. (See archive of official START I documents.)
- The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) took nine years of negotiation and was the first arms control agreement to require reduction in the number of nuclear warheads deployed on strategic offensive weapons.
- On 8 April 2010, President Obama (D) and Russian President Medvedev signed the new START treaty.
- Timeline of Nuclear Treaties
Photo Credit: Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, appears on “Fox News Sunday” in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2008. (AP Photo/FOX News Sunday, Freddie Lee)