Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), John Thune (R-SD), Kit Bond (R-MO), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), George Lemieux (R-FL), and Mark Kirk (R-IL) just announced at a joint press conference that none of them will be voting for New START in this lame duck session. This comes after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told The Hill it would be a “good idea” to wait until January to debate the treaty.
This is a wise and prudent decision that is consistent with the tradition and precedent of the United States Senate. Heritage scholars Matthew Spalding and Anna Leutheuser wrote earlier this month:
The Twentieth Amendment established the current dates of federal office terms and consequently made possible the modern congressional “lame duck” session between the election in November and the new Members’ swearing in on the third day of January.
The State Department maintains a comprehensive listing of all agreements and treaties currently in force. While considerable research would be required to establish definitively that no treaty has ever been ratified by a lame duck session, it is of note that current research efforts have yet to find any such treaty.
The recent midterm elections created significant ramifications for passing New START during the lame duck session. The ratification of New START by a lame duck Senate would not only ignore the message sent by voters in November but also break a significant precedent, consistent with the principle of consent, maintained by Presidents and Congresses since the passage of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933.