Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – START not yet finished

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.

Washington Extra – I see your gauntlet, and raise you a gauntlet

On Friday, President Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet to Republicans on taxes, effectively daring them to vote against a tax cut for the middle classes, just so that they can give an average of $100,000 in tax cuts to millionaires.

boehner_MitchOver the weekend, Republican leader of the House John Boehner seemed to shirk the challenge, but on Monday, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell picked up the gauntlet and threw it right back. McConnell has promised to introduce legislation “today” to ensure that “no one in this country pays higher income taxes next year than they are right now.” There are no Republicans who support a tax hike, he said, effectively daring Democrats to vote for higher taxes when the economy is in the mire.

Washington Extra is not sure who will blink first. But whichever side you take in this debate, one thing is for sure: this “wrestling match,” as Obama called it, or game of high-stakes political poker if you prefer, does the economy no good at all.

Washington Extra

mcconnell1Democrats have been trying to portray Republicans as the “Party of No”. Today Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell visited the Reuters bureau in DC and argued there was no shame in saying no.

Republicans, he said, will be campaigning against many of the policies enacted by President Barack Obama, including healthcare reform, higher spending, bailouts and greater government intervention in the economy, things the party was “proud” to say no to.

“It depends on what you are saying ‘no’ to,” McConnell told Reuters. “If you’re saying ‘no’ to the massive amount of spending and debt and Washington takeovers and things like adding a quarter of a million federal employees with borrowed money like we have in the past year and a half, I think the American people are saying: ‘Please say no to that. We want you to say no to that.’”