Washington Extra – START not yet finished

December 20, 2010

So far, the U.S. Senate has spent six days debating New START — the strategic nuclear arms limitation treaty with Russia. Not so long, you say? Democrats are rushing it through? Well consider this, Congress has already spent longer on this agreement than it did on START I almost two decades ago — and the original is a much more complex treaty.

It is not just President Barack Obama and the Democrats who support this treaty. Former President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, supports it. So does Republican Condoleezza Rice and every other former secretary of state who is still alive. And the military? Well those folks really support it, just ask the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the uniformed officers in charge of nuclear security.mcconnell2

So what’s the problem?

“The American people don’t want us to squeeze our most important work into the final days of a session,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell argued. Republicans, it seems, think Obama and the Democrats just want to notch one last victory before Republicans take the House in January.

Russia’s foreign minister warned U.S. senators not to make changes to the treaty during debate because it might not just delay the deal, it could kill it altogether. Not exactly the Christmas present Obama was hoping for in 2010.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Arms treaty debate increasingly testy in Senate

Debate in the Senate over President Obama’s strategic nuclear arms treaty with Russia grew increasingly testy, but the White House expressed confidence lawmakers would approve the accord before their break. Republican senators pushed for a series of amendments in an effort to kill the New START treaty by forcing a renegotiation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that any amendment would be a deal-breaker.

For more of this story by David Alexander, read here.

For a Q+A by David Alexander on START’s ‘moment of truth’, click here.

Obama working hard on START to secure year-end win

Eager to notch another year-end political victory, President Obama has worked to ease Republican doubts over a nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Success would cap a productive period in the closing weeks of this Congress.

For more of this story by Alister Bull and Steve Holland, read here.

Wall Street to regulators: No need to rush

As regulators race to write rules that will put Wall Street reform legislation into action, industry groups are trying to apply the brakes. The new law requires regulators to potentially write hundreds of rules, many under a tight time-frame. But in cases where the Dodd-Frank law leaves a bit of wiggle room on deadlines, industry groups are urging regulators to take a deep breath and adopt a go-slow approach.

For more of this analysis by Ann Saphir and Dave Clarke, read here.

Hedge funds may skirt direct Fed scrutiny -source

The Federal Reserve does not believe any one hedge fund can topple the financial system and therefore the private pools of capital may escape direct supervision by the central bank, an industry source familiar with the Fed’s position said.

For more of this story by Rachelle Younglai and Dave Clarke, read here.

For some professors, disclosure is academic

A growing number of critics are arguing that disclosing industry relationships should be mandatory for academics who appear before congressional policy hearings as independent experts. After all, these critics say, congressional testimony is a key step in the legislative process and can have enormous sway on policy. “If someone is presented as a disinterested expert, but they actually have a financial relationship with someone with an interest in what they are talking about, that leaves the members of the public in the dark and sometimes members of the committee as well,” said Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation.

For more of this special report by Emily Flitter, Kristina Cooke and Pedro da Costa, read here.

In Afghan war, US finds fighting may be easy part

While the White House review of the Afghan war last week reported a surge in troops has pushed Taliban militants out of some key areas, it also underscored that fighting may be the easy part in Afghanistan. The review, despite a cautiously optimistic tone, recognized that much remains to be done to improve Afghan governance and persuade Pakistan to end militant safe-havens as President Obama aims to start bringing troops home next year.

For more of this analysis by Missy Ryan, read here.

Automakers sue EPA over higher ethanol blends

Automakers and engine makers sued the EPA on Monday for allowing higher blends of ethanol for newer cars, which they think could confuse consumers at fuel pumps and lead to damage of engines in older vehicles.

For more of this story by Timothy Gardner, read here.

What we are blogging…

Senator Coburn’s waste line — $11.5 billion in 2010 spending

Republican Senator Tom Coburn has released his “Wastebook 2010″ report, a list of government spending that adds up to over $11.5 billion that he considers wasteful. It includes burping cows, Vidalia onions, a 2,500-year-old mummy, and finding love on the Internet. “Even those lucky enough to have jobs have had to tighten their belts. Yet, Congress continues to find new and extravagant ways to waste tax dollars,” Coburn said in a statement.

For Tabassum Zakaria’s full post, read here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo Credits: REUTERS//Kevin Lamarque (McConnell (L) makes his way into the Old Senate Chamber for a closed session about the new START treaty); REUTERS/Jason Reed (Obama  and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev exchange documents after signing  START II  in April.


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Mitch McConnell is muttering something about “trying to rush things right here before Christmas Eve,” which might make sense if the treaty hadn’t been sitting in the Senate since April.
The only organized groups on the planet hoping to see the Senate fail to ratify this treaty are Iranian officials, North Korean officials, hardliners in Russia, and most Republicans in the nation’s capital.

Posted by GetpIaning | Report as abusive

Yeah right…the progressive republicans are most certainly signing on to these last moment…before the time runs out of the progressive democrats who control the agenda….leave office after being thrown out by the American people.

The American people don’t want this and that is why these threw the bunch in power out…I mean literally threw them out.

It is up to people like you to spin this. You have been wrong for over two years and you are wrong now.

I can’t help but wonder who pays you for your drivel…

Posted by TyC | Report as abusive

The majority is now 67 votes, and the majority vote for ratification should be over 70 votes. So it looks like the American people DO want this. The minority 28 senators opposed to the treaty, all of them conservative Republicans, are having a fit because their colleagues have the audacity to overlook John Kyl and Mitch McConnell’s incoherent and dishonest whining and bizarre habit of moving the goalposts after the White House agrees to their demands. The majority of senators are voting for this pending treaty because they are listening to the unanimous judgment of military and diplomatic leaders, instead of the bitter tirades of a few confused ultra-conservatives.
There is no way to spin this. You are wrong, and no amount of zombie talking points about “what the American people want” will change it.

Posted by GetpIaning | Report as abusive

Sure thing…

All I know is that you disappeared for a month after you and “your” side suffered the worst election loss since the 1930’s. I am sure you had to regroup with your staff to come up with the spin you so eloquently write. After all, that’s what you are paid to do…

No matter how you spin it, you lost…get over it…

Posted by TyC | Report as abusive

New START just passed, so I don’t see how you can say “I lost” on this one.

I guess you just create your own reality as you go along. You really are like a zombie, you just keep popping up to repeat your talking points.

George Soros says happy holidays!

Posted by GetpIaning | Report as abusive

You know I was talking about the election…you spin doctor…

At least now your progressive friends can’t do any more damage…

For that we can be thankful this Christmas season.

My gift to you is to give you the last word…

Merry Christmas. I hope all the money you earned writing your diatribes gave you much happiness…

Posted by TyC | Report as abusive

Yes, that’s your strategy, isn’t it? Always change the subject back to the talking points you want to hammer at, regardless of the real topic. It shows how empty your arguments are when it comes to real discussion.

Some are saying that this Congress was the most productive since the 1960’s, despite the relentless obstruction of the regressive conservatives. That does give us all cheer, as do the monthly checks from my many progressive sponsors.

The Democrats will change the Senate rules to put a stop to the secret holds and other juvenile tactics of your regressive caucus. Mitch McConnell says if we think he was an obstructionist over the last two years, wait ’till next year. Should be fun.

Posted by GetpIaning | Report as abusive