Ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, a priority for President Barack Obama, is another matter.
Kyl, the lead GOP negotiator on START, which requires 67 votes for ratification, indicated that the Obama administration and Senate Republicans could be headed toward an agreement on the substance of the treaty and related policy issues. But the Senate Minority Whip expressed doubt that there was adequate time remaining in the lame-duck session to debate the document.
Several Senate Republicans, including the incoming freshman class, are urging GOP leaders to ensure that START is delayed until 2011 to allow more time for debate and consideration.
“There is not time to do it in the lame duck when you consider all of the other things that the Democratic leader wants to do,” Kyl said.
Durbin, a strong supporter of START ratification, disagreed. “It’s important to do it now,” he said.
But Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Dick Lugar, who supports ratification of START and would prefer that it be finished in the lame duck, said the Democrats’ list of other legislative priorities this month could stand in the way.
The Indiana Republican said on “State of the Union” that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) needs to shorten the Democrats’ wish list to ensure that there is enough time to debate START. Republicans sent a letter to Reid last week saying they want the Senate to first tackle the tax cuts and then a government spending bill before moving on to other matters in the lame-duck session, such as START.
“The problem with this, I think, is that Senator Reid, the Majority Leader, has found that many Democrats don’t want something quite that abrupt,” Lugar said. “They say we made a lot of promises out on the campaign trail.”