WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the key Republican vote on the new START Treaty, said on Sunday that there was not enough time to pass a strategic arms pact with Russia this year.
The Arizona Republican didn't pinpoint specific disagreements he had with the language of START. Rather, he said failure of passage would be because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), had already scheduled away the time needed to consider the measure by packing the lame duck docket with legislative gifts to Democratic constituents.
"My issue is that you can't do everything," Kyl said on "Meet the Press." "I was stating it as a matter of reality not a matter of policy. How can Harry Reid do all the things we are talking about, deal with expiring tax provisions and in addition to that deal with the START Treaty which by itself could take two weeks?"
Two weeks would be a historically long window to debate a measure that foreign policy luminaries in both parties have insisted is a must-pass. The last START treaty was passed through Congress in five days.
"People across America who subscribe to cable [should] ask for refunds when they turn on C-SPAN and see the Senate sit there, day after day, doing nothing -- lurching from filibuster to filibuster," said Kyl's co-panelist, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
But Kyl has shown a real unwillingness to get the ball rolling with respect to START. Weeks prior to his appearance on "Meet the Press," he demanded that the administration include additional funds for nuclear weapons modernization as part of the overall package. When the White House acquiesced, his complaints about the measure focused on the need to ensure U.S. nuclear weapons deterrence. Those concerns have been called overblown by the treaty's defenders. But as the clock has continued to tick, both Kyl and others in the GOP tent have been handed another reason to drag their feet: a closing window for consideration in the lame duck Congress.
"If the leader of the Senate, Senator Reid, were to allow a couple of weeks for full debate and amendment of the resolution of ratification then theoretically there would be time," said Kyl. "But he has made it clear he has a different agenda in mind. I think clearly they have two sets of priorities here. Are they going to deal with the funding of the government for the remainder of the fiscal year? They've got to do that. Are they doing to deal with the issue which is on everyone's mind, that you mentioned earlier, and that is to make sure we don't have a big tax increase, the largest tax increase in the history of the country. These are higher priority items and if we do those things, and then potentially deal with some of the other political issues that Senator Reid has said he wants to deal with, in that event there would not be time."
Neither the White House nor Senator Reid's office immediately returned a request for comment.
UPDATE: Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Reid, emailed over the following comment:
The administration has bent over backwards to try and address every concern he and his republican colleagues have raised, yet all we heard today were more excuses, many based on an outdated 1950 era cold war mentality.