Bipartisanship in the 112th: It's a START

In the flurry of lame-duck victories for President Obama and the Democrats, the ratification of the START Treaty probably tells the most important story about the coming two years. The GOP opponents of approving START insisted there wasn't enough time, though the first START in 1992 and its successor in 2003 both passed in a week or less on the Senate floor. There was ample time. And with 13 Republican senators joining the Democrats to ratify the arms-control agreement — four more than the necessary nine to reach a required 67 votes — there was ample support as well.
 
The New York Times
has a fascinating take on how the GOP has divided into two groups on national-security issues, the formers and the futures, and that beyond START, Obama's broader disarmament agenda isn't likely to go very far. Here is an excerpt:

The list of former cold warriors who supported New Start jumped out from the front pages of the cold war and the George W. Bush administration: Henry A. Kissinger, George P. Shultz and Condoleezza Rice. George H. W. Bush, who signed the Start II treaty in 1993 with President Boris N. Yeltsin of Russia, issued a brief statement of support. But some of the current powers in the party, including Republicans who may have their eyes on challenging Mr. Obama, from Mitt Romney to Sarah Palin, denounced it as a weakening of the United States, arguing that it limited missile defenses. Mr. Obama ultimately beat that argument back, pointing to his deployment plan of a series of layered missile defenses over the next decade, mostly aimed at containing the likes of nuclear aspirants, chiefly Iran. “By and large, this debate has revealed two breeds of Republicans,” said Franklin C. Miller, a hawk on nuclear issues who helped devise President George W. Bush’s nuclear strategies, but also worked for his four predecessors.

“There are those who understand the history of the cold war and the need to put verifiable controls on nuclear weapons,” he said. “And there is another school which may or may not understand the issues, but is happy to treat them as a political football.”



Besides three retiring Republican senators, the following senators bucked their leader and voted for START: Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Dick Lugar of Indiana, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Susan Collins of Maine.
 
Obama can expect to lose numerous Democratic votes in the Senate next year — Democrats up for reelection in 2012 in Virginia, Montana, Missouri and other battlegrounds are going to side with Republicans much of the time, giving the GOP effective control. But the list of senators who voted for START are Republicans to watch, as they could provide the most likely path to bipartisanship in the Senate next year.


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