Bob Corker, speaking softly to Olivier Knox, casually says that the START treaty won’t pass if Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or the DREAM Act get a vote tomorrow.
Corker voted against bringing up START in the first place. Nevertheless, you can’t totally dismiss this threat. Even though Corker voted against the treaty on the motion to proceed, he’s probably just the messenger here. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal is on a glide path to passage. With Olympia Snowe joining Scott Brown and Lisa Murkowski as fully supportive of the standalone bill, at least 61 votes are in hand, and Harry Reid filled the amendment tree to minimize any possibility of amendments. It will clear cloture tomorrow.
This is why Corker is turning to a separate measure to try and derail the bill. The segregationists did this with civil rights bills all the time. They would just threaten to take down something more cherished and pit the two bills against one another. You can see the seeds of this strategy in the fact that Republicans have offered no amendments in two days of debate on new START on the floor of the Senate. They’re clearly slow-walking the bill so they can make this threat to kill it credible.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA), who has been shepherding the debate on the Senate floor, has become visibly frustrated by the delay tactics. Kerry has made clear that Senate Democrats are ready to vote for the treaty and to vote on amendments. He has repeatedly asked for Republican Senators to come forward and offer amendments. Here is a snapshot of Senator Kerry throughout the day yesterday asking Republicans to bring forth their amendments and growing increasingly outraged at their stalling.
10:30 am: “We don’t have any amendments, we are prepared to vote.”
11:30 am: “The sooner we can get to some of these amendments… we can discover if something is a flaw or not a flaw.”
11:45 am: “We are now almost at lunch time and we don’t have an amendment.”
1:25 pm: “I would ask the senator if he has an amendment that he is prepared to offer?”
2:00 pm: “They say we don’t have time, who haven’t brought an amendment to the floor. I clearly smell the self-fulfilling prophecy strategy going on here.”
3:30 pm: “They just delay, delay, and delay… We’ve been here for a day and we still haven’t had an amendment.”
Corker actually called for amendments today as well. But he’s just playing the reasonable messenger, with the message that new START will fail if the Senate ends official discrimination in the armed forces.
The White House is clearly very desirous of passing new START this year. When Mitch McConnell gets it in his head to obstruct he can work miracles within his caucus. So the threat to START is not totally beyond the pale. I don’t think Republicans would have a care in the world risking the nation’s nuclear security.
Would the Senate rule changes fix this? Not necessarily, but they would enable the majority to clear the calendar more easily, and give the minority less tools to endlessly obstruct progress for the American people.
UPDATE: Just to add, the proper response to this is “Make my day.” Unlike other measures, new START is one where the Republicans actually will get called out by the media for their obstruction. Too many Very Serious GOP Daddies support it. I don’t think blocking it because another bill passed would actually hold, if Democrats pressed the issue.
UPDATE II: John McCain, who DID vote to proceed to new START, is taking the Corker line on this, just now on the Senate floor. Imagine that, John McCain is dishonorable.
UPDATE III: The Wonk Room has the video of Corker.