Brown will support START; Update: Lamar Alexander, too

Scott Brown will make a second foray across the aisle in the lame duck session to vote in favor of ratification of the START treaty.  Brown, who also crossed the aisle to support the repeal of DADT, made his position clear last night:


Senator John F. Kerry, laboring to achieve a foreign policy victory that would be a highlight of his career, gained crucial support yesterday for a nuclear arms control treaty with Russia from his Massachusetts colleague, Republican Senator Scott Brown.

Brown’s backing gave Kerry additional momentum heading into a possible vote today. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry is President Obama’s man in charge of trying to lock down the two-thirds support of the Senate — 67 votes if every members shows up — required to ratify the New START pact. …

Brown said he would buck GOP Senate leadership and vote in favor of the treaty, which would reduce nuclear warheads by approximately one third, late yesterday after a secret intelligence briefing for senators. It was the second dramatic move across the aisle by Brown in the last week. On Saturday, he supported repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays and lesbians in the military.

“I’ve done my due diligence, and I’m going to be … ultimately supporting the START treaty,” Brown told reporters in the Capitol. “I believe it’s something that’s important for our country, and I believe that it’s a good move forward to deal with our national security issues.”

Kerry’s prestige in the Senate is on the line, according to Boston Globe reporter Jason Tuohey:

“If Kerry is successful, it means he comes out of the shadow of Ted Kennedy,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University who studies Congress, referring to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the late Massachusetts Democrat. “This is a career turning point and if he succeeds he lays claim to being a legislator of the first order.”


Gee, and after only 25 years!  I guess Kerry is a slow starter.

Brown’s announcement still leaves Kerry a couple of votes short.  He needs nine Republicans to vote in favor of the treaty, and right now it appears Kerry has seven, according to the Globe’s count.  They see six possibilities for those two votes, with one of them being Thad Cochran of Mississippi.  Chuck Schumer even publicly named Cochran as a yes vote, but Cochran denied he had made any decision at all.

The objections have come down to two tracks. The first is process.  The GOP feels they’re getting jammed by the last-minute introduction of the bill, and are using the process to fight back.  If the treaty’s substance is acceptable, though, the protest that they have made through procedure has already made its point.

But it’s not just the process.  On substance, some Republicans believe that the treaty will be used by Russia to stifle missile defense, and that further pursuit of missile defense will either cause Russia to pull out of the treaty — rendering the entire debate moot — or provide them with a pressure point for the Obama administration to curtail missile defense.   The White House insists that it is committed to missile defense, but the concession to Russia in September 2009 on missile defense that abruptly ended a partnership with Poland (on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion, no less) reminds Republicans that this administration isn’t inclined to defend American prerogative in that arena.  Faced with a choice of losing missile defense or losing Russia in the next two years, the sense of the GOP is that Obama would surrender missile defense in order to appease the Russians and hold onto the one big foreign-policy achievement Obama has gotten.


That’s the real problem, and that’s why the GOP has been attempting to amend the treaty for the greatest clarification on that issue.  The White House’s refusal to work on that issue doesn’t do anything for confidence among Republicans on Obama’s lip service to missile defense.

Update: Endgame?  Via our headlines:

Sen. Lamar Alexan­der will be tak­ing the floor of the Sen­ate at about 9:30 a.m. ET today to announce he will vote for the new START treaty with Rus­sia to reduce nuclear weapons.

Alexander’s vote is key because sev­eral Repub­li­cans will need to join the 56 Sen­ate Democ­rats and two inde­pen­dents in order for treaty to pass.

Alexander will probably pull one or two more fence-sitters across the aisle with him.

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