The New Start Treaty Standoff

Or, American parochialism in action:

The Russian statement provoked a sharp response from the leading Republican treaty opponent, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. “What’s wrong with that?” he asked of returning to the negotiating table to improve the treaty. “Unless you think the U.S. Constitution was really stupid to give the Senate a role in this…”

You know, I’m just going to hazard a guess that the Russian government really doesn’t give a shit about the U. S. Constitution, and I’m going to hazard an even wackier guess that Vladimir Putin thinks the Constitution was, in fact, really stupid to give the Senate a role in negotiating arms control treaties.

But it’s awesome that decades of progress in negotiating the mutual walking back from the nuclear abyss and the end of a decades-dead cold war is on hold and in danger of being derailed because the Tea Party is snippy Obama might get good press for 2 weeks.

For what it’s worth, the expectation seems to be that this is going to pass, in spite of Senator Kyl’s immense idioicy.

For some reason I was thinking it took 75. They can probably do 67. Just barely. Assuming they get it through before the end of the year; otherwise next year god knows what crazy demands the GOP would have to pass it.

Mr. Alexander said he planned to support the treaty but said that the Democrats were wrong to insist on a vote in a last-minute fashion before the Senate adjourns. “This is not the way to do it,” he said. “This is not the way to get 67 votes. And it’s a reckless way to consider the treaty.”

Lulz proceduralism.

Looks like it has the votes. Thank god some GOP senators actually put country above the Tea Party.

Were the Democrats ever this dickish over a no-brainer bill?

Huh, now that’s interesting.

Quick quiz – only one Republican senator has sided with Democrats on DADT repeal, the tax deal, New START cloture, and the DREAM Act in the lame-duck session. Who was it?

The obvious guesses would likely be Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine), or Scott Brown (R-Mass.). But the truth is a little further north.

One of Pres. Obama's biggest supporters in the Senate in the past week is not even a member of his own party: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Har har.

Let’s not forget she hates, hates, hates Sarah Palin!

That is extremely funny.

No, because nuclear arms reduction treaties are A) a good thing for everyone, but especially hippies that make up the liberal base and B) negotiated by serious and respected grown-ups. Plus, Dems want to be seen as serious in foreign policy, so why fuck up good relations with Russia?

I think the question was more “Have the Democrats ever been such obstructionist whiny babies” and the answer would be no, the Democrats have not in recent memory bothered to try to block any bill.

IIRC the Bush tax cuts did have to be pushed through using reconciliation (which is why they had a sunset clause instead of being just the current tax rates outright) but I can’t think of anything else a Democratic minority actually blocked.

Also, apparently, not that fond of the rest of the party right now:

“The answer to the stupid question my colleagues have been asking over and over again in hopes of distracting the electorate from their foolhardy pr stunt is NO. Love and deez nuts, Lisa”

Interesting. Mulling this over to figure out what it means:

  1. Most people assumed that the GOP would block the repeal of DADT. You had a wide variety of Republicans, including McCain, arguing against it, even if it was only the old “let’s delay while we get more studies” trick. But they didn’t block it, and the bill went through relatively easily.

  2. The GOP was pretty uniform in their arguments that there were sections of the START treaty that put the U.S. at a disadvantage (that was their argument) and they had all of their media supporters such as Limbaugh, Fred Thompson, Hannity, etc. drumming up the support to “not rush to sign it, but wait until the new Congress is seated” - yet it appears that they will not block it.

So - what’s the deal? Everyone is pretty much in agreement that the GOP will block everything, yet they are passing a couple of bills that key to Obama’s agenda. What kind of backroom negotiating is going on? I’m seeking insider info on this and haven’t found any yet.

DADT had the rug pulled under it after the Pentagon jumped through each and every hoop that curmudgeons such as McCain demanded. The comprehensive study, as well as backing from Gates, made repeal inevitable. Call it decency, call it seeing the writing on the wall, or call it recognizing the fact that the public is generally okay with gays, but enough Republican senators were willing to back repeal.

New Start was a completely different thing. One, it’s a serious national security issue. You don’t dick around with those, or at least, you’re not supposed to. Despite the fact that the GOP said Obama was “rushing it”, the facts remain that the deal was struck eight months ago, there have been 18 hearings in Congress, and it’s been in debated longer than any previous arms treaty. And Republicans have never had any issue with similar treaties that were drawn up by Presidents with names like Reagan or Bush. But the grown-ups in the GOP recognized that it’s a good treaty, and it’s especially needed since verification from the last treaty has now expired.

The New York Times had a pretty good analysis today that also broke it down. The treaty had support from GOP figures with names like Baker and Kissinger. They were Cold Warriors who actually lived with the daily threat of nuclear annihilation. The bad news is that, being Cold Warriors, they’re also old. The young set of GOP senators coming in were just teenagers when the Cold War ended. They’ve never really had to sweat a Cuban Missile Crisis. Their formative years were spent with the USSR as this decaying beast, and with American military dominance. They don’t understand why we should reduce our nuclear weapon arsenal, or they think it’s one big political football. Unfortunately, since they’re young, they’re going to be around a lot longer than guys like Baker and Kissinger.

That’s a good analysis, but it does make me wonder about the touted effectiveness/unity of the GOP. If you’re going to pass the START, you don’t get your constituency all fired up about how critical it is to wait until the next Congress is seated and taking your time to review it and needed modifications - and then vote for it. Just for fun, I turned on Limbaugh, and his listeners and he are making all kinds of noise about the GOP wimping out on this one.

Anyway, I’ll take it. I’m still betting that there were some backroom meetings and horse trading that went on.

Ezra has an answer for this question. To wit: you have a small group of moderate GOP Senators who really do want to pass this stuff, who realized that it will never pass next year.

And it passes 71-26.

Man, that was a dumb hill for the GOP to die on. Perhaps conservative unity is not as scary as it initially seemed.

I guess we’ll see in a couple of months.

I was listening to one of the chief negotiator people for the US talking about the START treaty (they were, of course, a proponent), but at the end of it all, I was left asking…

What’s the point, really?

Ultimately, what do we get from the treaty?

I’m not a fan of getting rid of our nuclear arsenal, but even for folks who are… this treaty doesn’t do that. This is actually one of the arguments presented in its defense… that both the US and Russia will still have enough nuclear weapons to unilaterally destroy the earth. So, really, what’s the point?

We get to have inspectors monitor the weapons programs of the other nation… this seems to be the biggest thing we get out of it, right? So we get to know if they break the rules, and make even more nuclear weapons… how does this benefit us? In theory, perhaps this could be seen as a way to safeguard against nuclear proliferation, but it doesn’t actually result in omniscient knowledge of nuclear development in Russia… and honestly, I don’t think Russia really wants to go handing out nukes anyway, given their own problems with terrorism.

So this is an honest question… what’s different between the world where we sign the START treaty, and the world where we don’t? I gotta figure there must be some significant benefit that we get, but most of the folks who talk about it seem to dumb it down to the point where no meaningful details are discussed.

Anything less than omniscience is worthless is the standard you’re proposing?

What about looking at it from the chicken soup point of view, what could it hurt?