Starting START: Senate Set to Take Up Nuclear Pact

By Jenny Schlesinger

Dec 14, 2010 4:03pm

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:  Now that the Senate is set to vote on final passage of the tax bill late tonight or early tomorrow, the next big-ticket item for lawmakers to tackle will be the new START treaty with Russia, Majority Leader Harry Reid said today.  “We’re going to move as soon as we can to the START treaty,” Reid told reporters after the weekly party luncheons on Capitol Hill. Debate on the nuclear pact could begin as soon as Wednesday morning. A slew of Republicans led by Sen. Jon Kyl have argued that there is not enough time left to consider the treaty before the next Congress, but now Democrats are set to move forward with it, a move that will please President Obama who has called it his top foreign policy priority for the lame-duck session.  Democrats will need 67 votes to ratify the pact, but they would not have decided to move forward with it if they were not confident that they have the votes to pass it, according to a senior Democratic aide. To date only a handful of Republicans including Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana and Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine have announced their support for the treaty.    If the Senate does begin debate on the pact tomorrow, that would mean lawmakers will have to simultaneously figure out a way to fund the government before the latest continuing resolution runs out on Saturday. Senate Democrats, led by Appropriations panel chairman Daniel Inouye, have filed a $1.1 trillion, 2,000-page omnibus bill that includes numerous earmarks.  The expected decision to dual-track the START treaty and the funding bill is a last-ditch effort by Reid to speed up the Senate’s pace on two key issues as Christmas inches ever closer. In addition to those two matters, Reid has also said he wants to act on the stand-alone Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal and the DREAM Act immigration measure, even if it ends up throwing a wrench into lawmakers’ holiday plans.  “We are going to complete our work no matter how long it takes in this Congress,” Reid said. “We have to do the work of the American people.”

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