Conservative foreign policy wonks are worried that the Democratic majority in the Senate might try to squeeze through the new START agreement before the influx of new Republican senators come to work in January. But Don Stewart, spokesman for Republican leader Senator Mitch McConnell, thinks that the Democrats probably will not be able to get new START through during the lame duck session, and almost certainly not before Senator-elect Mark Kirk is sworn, which will happen probably around Thanksgiving.
Given the planned schedule, Stewart says, “It won’t happen that first week….Because they’ve already set up the votes for that week.”
To change the schedule around, “It will take unanimous consent to get off the [current schedule],” and that’s pretty unlikely. Plus, “There isn’t unanimous consent, so you’d have to go through a cloture vote, which would take days.”
Stewart also cites the Senate’s busy work schedule to suggest that even after Senator-elect Kirk is sworn in, the Democratic majority will have to contend with a full docket before even considering new START. The Senate has to deal with budget issues, tax issues, and a slew of other minor bills and end-of-year business before even getting chance to consider the controversial treaty.
New START is a follow-on agreement with the Russians for both countries to reduce the nuclear arms in each country’s arsenal. President Obama signed the agreement with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, but, according to the U.S. Constitution, all treaties must be ratified by the Senate in order to be valid.