Senate vote on tax package gives shot in arm to START treaty ratification

Passage of the $858 billion tax package by the middle of this week could pave the way for the Senate to vote on ratifying the New START nuclear treaty by Christmas, the aides said.

The treaty is hugely important to the White House and would represent an important domestic and foreign policy victory for Obama if it were to be approved in this Congress. 

Senate Republicans have vowed not to move any legislation until a tax package is approved along with a measure to keep the government funded. But the tax package received a huge shot of momentum Monday when the Senate overwhelmingly voted to proceed to that bill. 

A senior Democratic aide said Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSuper-PAC targets Portman on trade Dem leader urges compromise on FCC set-top box plan Senate Dems introduce Iran sanctions extension MORE (D-Nev.) would likely bring START to the Senate floor by Thursday and put it on a parallel track with spending legislation. 

Reid could then jump off START to consider an omnibus or a continuing resolution to keep government funded into 2011. This would give the leader the ability to switch back to START after the funding bills are considered.

It's unclear if Reid's gambit will be successful. Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the lead GOP negotiator with the administration on START, has said there isn’t enough time for the Senate to ratify the treaty in the lame-duck session.  

But Republicans face some pressure to support the deal, which has the support of every living former secretary of State, as well as the military.

Senators expect Reid to attempt to move an omnibus appropriations bill that would set the federal discretionary spending level at $1.108 trillion for 2011.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellProgressive group changes tone on Kaine Trump hits Kaine on TPP: He supports a 'job killer' Clinton maps out first 100 days MORE (Ky.) has said he will oppose an omnibus spending bill, but some Republicans, including Sen. Thad CochranThad CochranWhy a bill about catfish will show whether Ryan's serious about regulatory reform Capitol locked down for second time in a week This week: Congress eyes the exits in dash to recess MORE (Miss.) the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, might vote for it. Cochran said Monday evening he was considering a yes vote and planned to meet with his staff to attempt to change some parts of the spending package Republicans don’t like.

A GOP aide said retiring Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiBig Oil makes a push for risky and reckless Arctic drilling GOP divided over 0M for climate fund Overnight Energy: House passes first Interior, EPA spending bill in seven years MORE (R-Alaska), who is expected to win reelection as a write-in candidate, might also vote for the omnibus.