But Kyl’s position on START is not Obama’s only problem.
Several Republicans on Thursday offered fresh opposition to ratifying the START during the lame duck, including Sen. Jim DeMint.
The South Carolina Republican and Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) sent a letter to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) Thursday, signed by 20 of their GOP colleagues, urging that START be pushed to next year, when the Republican Conference will grow from 42 to 47. Signatories to the letter include Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (S.D.); Conference Vice Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.); National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas); and Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.).
Rep. Roy Blunt (R), who will be sworn in next month as Missouri’s junior Senator, previously sent a letter to Reid in November signed by 10 Republican Senators-elect asking that a vote on START be delayed to allow the Senate’s incoming freshmen a chance to weigh in on the document. DeMint is threatening to block START, should it come up for debate, in part to ensure that Blunt and his freshman colleagues have an opportunity to vote on the treaty.
“I will use every tool available to oppose an attempt to rush the debate over the START Treaty during the lame-duck session of Congress,” DeMint wrote Thursday on National Review’s website. “The newly elected Republican Senators have signed a letter asking our leadership to postpone debate on START until they take office in a few weeks and have ample time to review the details.”
DeMint, who serves on Foreign Relations, expressed concerns with the treaty, both in his online post and in the letter he and Ensign sent to McConnell. The START legislation is privileged and therefore debate on the measure cannot be filibustered, but 67 votes are required for ratification, more than are needed to overcome a filibuster.
Kyl said the issue of allowing the new crop of incoming GOP Senators to vote on START was also factoring into his calculations regarding how to proceed on the treaty.
Sen. Orrin Hatch said Republicans would be more inclined to proceed to a debate on START if Democrats put their list of lame-duck priorities on hold and focus on extending tax cuts and passing legislation necessary to keep the government funded and operating.
The Utah Republican signed the DeMint-Ensign letter, saying in a brief interview Thursday that moving to ratify START during the lame duck was problematic.
“Morally, how can they bring that up when there’s been a sea change, and you’ve got a lot of people who’ve been elected,” he said. “I don’t think it would be right.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.