- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Republican point man on a major new missile pact with Russia said that he doubted the Senate had enough time in the lame-duck session to debate and vote on the treaty.

The statement released by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona is significant because it means the START missile agreement — which will need significant GOP support to achieve the two-thirds vote needed for ratification — will be considered in the next Congress where 13 new Republican freshman senators will take their seats. The views of many of the new lawmakers on the treaty are unknown.

Virtually all of the Senate Democrats are expected to support ratification, but the caucus will drop from the current 59 members to just 53 next year.

Mr. Kyl had been wooed by President Obama and the Senate Democratic leadership to endorse a vote in the lame-duck session.

But he said Tuesday that he told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Monday night that he did not think a vote was feasible “given the combination of other work Congress must do and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and [U.S. nuclear arsenal]modernization.”

Indiana Sen. Richard G. Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is a strong backer of the START deal, but many others in the GOP caucus have said they looked to Mr. Kyl for guidance on the vote. GOP lawmakers have pressed the Obama administration to agree to a modernization of the U.S. nuclear stockpile and have also raised concerns about the possible link between the START deal and American missile defense systems, which Moscow has long opposed.

“We place great confidence” in Mr. Kyl, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said at a defense conference on Monday. He “has been talking a lot with the administration, and I think they have come a long way.”

Mr. Kyl said he was still negotiating with the administration “in good faith.”