The Obama Administration was looking to Jon Kyl, for some reason, to determine whether they would be allowed to pass a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. President Kyl has come down from the mountain and delivered his opinion, and it’s a big fat “no,” as usual.

Seemingly shutting the door on one of the Obama administration’s key goals for this lame-duck session of Congress, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday that he does not think the Senate should vote to ratify the START treaty before the end of the year.

“When Majority Leader Harry Reid asked me if I thought the treaty could be considered in the lame duck session, I replied I did not think so given the combination of other work Congress must do and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization,” Kyl said in a statement.

“I appreciate the recent effort by the administration to address some of the issues that we have raised, and I look forward to continuing to work with Senator [John] Kerry, DoD, and DoE officials.”

This delay would buy time for more Republicans to come into the Senate, with some of them undoubtedly bearing more conditions for passage of the treaty, which requires 67 votes.

Not sure what makes Kyl the last word on this, except for self-regard. Kyl has been loudest in asking for a bribe, in the form of funding “nuclear modernization,” which is basically pork for the weapons industry. The Administration has offered to spend an extra $4 billion on nuclear modernization, bringing the total to a whopping $84 billion over ten years (we have a deficit crisis!), but apparently that wasn’t enough. And Kyl has basically become the “nuclear expert” in the Republican caucus, the one Senator the others listen to on these issues, which should frighten everyone.

The other Republican lament is whether the treaty, which would reduce stockpiles in the US and Russia by about 1/3 and institute a verification regime, would inhibit missile defense. It wouldn’t, but it sounds good enough for John McCain and Lindsey Graham to whine about it.

Kyl is reportedly still negotiating this deal, but he put out this statement at the same time, just to play the negotiation out in the media. As one observer said in Laura Rozen’s article, “It only reinforces those who believe that Kyl is playing the administration for a fool, stringing out a series of concessions before abruptly calling the whole thing off.”

Where have I seen that before?

David Dayen

David Dayen