Republican Whip Kyl Sold (Literally) on New START

After Republicans picked up six seats in the Senate earlier this month, prospects for the passage of the new START began to diminish (not that this author minds). Barron YoungSmith at the New Republic writes that last week “chief of staff to Senator Bob Corker — a key vote on the treaty — said that it should not be considered during the lame-duck Congress, and the Republican Policy Committee released a memo urging a similar delay.”

Of powerful Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, YoungSmith writes: “Kyl’s position as Republican whip enables him to command enough Senate votes that he can determine whether New START is ratified or not.” Nor has Kyl demonstrated a fondness for treaties in the past. “I submit that we have to be very careful to avoid relying on treaties to safeguard our security, since the reality is they are rarely enforced,” he said in 2000 of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. But, writes YoungSmith, “bizarrely enough, he seems to want [new START] to go through.”

Turns out, not so bizarrely. Desmond Butler for the Associated Press writes:

In a bid to win approval of [new START] before newly energized Republicans increase their clout in the Senate, the Obama administration is offering to add billions of dollars in funding for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. [To wit] a boost of $4.1 billion . . . between 2012-2016 . . . that will go to maintaining and modernizing the arsenal and the laboratories that oversee that effort. The additional money comes on top of an additional $10 billion the administration had already agreed to over 10 years.

And that additional $10 billion, YoungSmith explains, is “on top of” . . .

. . . an initial massive $80 billion appropriation in Obama’s 2011 budget proposal [that Kyl demanded be] guaranteed over ten years. [In the end] Kyl’s proposal would pair New START with a huge cash bonanza for programs that would make it easier to maintain and upgrade our nuclear weapons in the future.

In other words, according to YoungSmith, Kyl “seems to think that securing long-term funding for nuclear modernization outweighs whatever qualms he might have about reducing our present arsenal.”

Then, a couple of odd statements by YoungSmith. First: “Given Kyl’s apparent passion for securing this funding, it’s no surprise that the White House seems to have decided to threaten the senator.” Most likely, the author and editor failed to notice the absence of the word “not” preceding “threaten.”

Next: “One senior administration official told the Financial Times that ‘not moving ahead … could shatter the fragile consensus on modernizing the nuclear complex.’ Presumably that would put at risk not just the extra $10 billion Kyl has been requesting, but possibly the entire $80 billion proposed appropriation.

Doesn’t the official mean “shatter the fragile consensus on ratifying START”? Because, as the statement stands, it sounds as if he’s more concerned with securing funding for the nuclear-weapons industry than ratifying new START. Maybe he is.