White House says START must and will pass — despite GOP concerns

Jon Ward Contributor
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White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that a weapons treaty with Russia that has been stalled due to Republican objections must pass before the end of the year, and predicted the Senate will indeed ratify it.

“Failure to pass this endangers our national security,” Gibbs said, speaking to reporters at the White House.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also went to Capitol Hill Wednesday to urge action on the treaty.

“This is not an issue that can afford to be postponed,” she said.

At the White House, Gibbs sounded a confident note about the prospects for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which President Obama signed in April at a summit in Prague with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

“I think the treaty will come up and I think the treaty will be voted on and I think it will have enough votes to pass,” he said.

That’s despite a statement Tuesday from the lead Republican lawmaker on the issue, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, that the treaty should not be approved until after the new year, when all newly elected senators have been sworn in and seated.

“When Majority Leader Harry Reid asked me if I thought the treaty could be considered in the lame duck session, I replied I did not think so given the combination of other work Congress must do and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization,” Kyl said Tuesday.

Asked by CNN Wednesday whether he was open to compromise, Kyl said he was talking “in good faith” with the administration.

A Kyl spokesman has not yet responded to a request for comment.

But Gibbs said the treaty is a test of whether newly empowered Republicans — who now control the House and have closed the gap in the Senate — can work with Democrats.

“This is going to be a test of the degree to which both sides can work together on things that are of common interest to the American people,” Gibbs said. “That was the message of this election, was, Washington can’t just be what Washington has always been. We have to have people who are capable of sitting down in a room and moving issues forward.”

The president’s chief spokesman said that media reports casting the postponement of a meeting between Obama and Republican congressional leaders as a failure to work together were pure hype.

“It’s great theater. It’s just not what happened,” he said.

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