Page 2 of 2   <      

Senate's ratification of START hinges on Kyl's vote

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said on ABC's "This Week" that if those two issues were addressed, "I would vote for the treaty."

But McCain said it was unclear whether there would be time in the lame-duck session to ratify the treaty.

Kyl is the Republican whip, the party's No. 2 post in the Senate. He is also one of the few people focused on nuclear issues in a Senate where such expertise has dwindled since the Cold War. But he is more conservative than the Senate's other major Republican expert, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), who supports the treaty.

"The sense is, Kyl's just not going to agree to something that isn't going to meet the tests of the right," said Norman J. Ornstein, a scholar of Congress at the American Enterprise Institute.

Republicans "have kind of delegated [New START] to him," he said. "In effect, it means that the opinions of Lugar, Shultz, Kissinger and all these others outside are kind of a little less significant." Ornstein referred to former secretaries of state George P. Shultz and Henry A. Kissinger, who support the treaty.

The U.S. military leadership, and nearly all past commanders of American nuclear-weapons forces, have called for passage of the treaty. It would reduce the number of deployed, long-range nuclear warheads on each side from 2,200 to 1,550.

More critically, the treaty would allow both nuclear giants to check on the number and location of each other's long-range, ready-to-use nuclear weapons. Such inspections ended when the first START treaty expired in December.

Gates talked to Kyl about the extra $4 billion in a telephone call Friday. That money would be on top of an earlier administration pledge of a $10 billion increase.

"The administration is going above and beyond what's required in order to get approval from Senate Republicans," said Stephen Young of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The group Heritage Action questioned the extra funds, which would bring the 10-year U.S. nuclear modernization budget to $84 billion.

"No amount of money can obscure the treaty's fatal flaws, including inadequate verification measures and limits on missile defense," said the group's top official, Michael A. Needham.

The administration has said the treaty doesn't limit U.S. missile defense, but some senators are worried by Russian statements suggesting otherwise.

<       2

© 2010 The Washington Post Company