Obama Administration to Make Push for Ratification of New START

BY Quinn Bowman  November 18, 2010 at 8:16 AM EDT

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senate Foreign Relations ranking Republican Dick Lugar, R-Ind., discuss New START at the Capitol on Wednesday. Photo by Douglas Graham/Roll Call.

The Morning Line

President Obama will meet on Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, three former U.S. secretaries of state, top senators on the Committee on Foreign Relations and other officials to emphasize the importance of the Senate ratifying the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia.

The Obama administration had hoped to have a bipartisan domestic policy meeting Thursday; the president was scheduled to meet with Congressional leaders to discuss the future of the Bush tax cuts, which will expire in January and raise tax rates if Congress doesn’t act. President Obama still plans to meet Thursday with Congressional Democrats. Republicans asked that the meeting be rescheduled to Nov. 30.

Instead, the Obama administration will use the meeting on New START — as well as a photo opp with military officials — to pressure Republicans intent on blocking the treaty from passing in the Senate. President Obama has called passing New START his foreign relations priority during the lame duck session.

Under the treaty, the United States and Russia would both reduce their number of deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 and allow inspections to verify the reductions.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Tuesday that he did not think New START should be considered during the lame duck session because of unresolved issues with the treaty. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement Wednesday saying the treaty was vitally important to America’s national security interest and that the treaty could be ratified after Thanksgiving.

MIRACLE ON ICE

Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski claimed victory Wednesday night, becoming the first write-in candidate to win a Senate race in more than 50 years.

“I think we can say our miracle is here,” Murkowski told a crowd of cheering supporters gathered in Anchorage.

The Associated Press called the race for Murkowski, who leads Tea Party-backed Republican Joe Miller by more than 10,000 votes.

Murkowski would still hold a lead of almost 2,000 votes if all the ballots challenged by Miller’s campaign were thrown out. Miller, however, has refused to concede.

When asked by the Anchorage Daily News in a phone interview if there was a scenario in which he could still win, Miller responded, “I don’t think it’s impossible.”

Miller also said his campaign is committed to making sure the votes were counted fairly.

The Republican Party of Alaska said it won’t support Miller if he continues to challenge the results. “This was a free and fair election. It is now time to look forward. We call on Joe Miller to respect the will of the voters and end his campaign in a dignified manner,” said Alaska GOP Chairman Randy Ruedrich in a statement.

The last write-in candidate to win a Senate race was Strom Thurmond of South Carolina in 1954.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Senate Majority Leader Reid has announced that he plans to bring forth a bill to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay service members and reintroduce the DREAM Act during the lame duck session.

According to the New York Times, Reid will introduce the bill on the military’s practice despite Sen. John McCain’s successful effort to block consideration of a repeal, which was part of a broader military bill, in September.

“We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so,” Reid said in a statement Wednesday. The military is due to issue a report that indicates how it would carry out the repeal on Dec. 1.

Reid also announced he would bring the DREAM act to the floor of the Senate. The act provides a path to citizenship for children who are in America illegally if they attend college or join the military.

“Last time we sought to bring up this bill, all Republicans blocked our effort, even though many have been supporters of the DREAM Act in the past,” Reid said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I hope that our Republican colleagues will join me, Sen. Durbin and Democrats in passing this important piece of legislation, now that we have a stand-alone version and that political season is over.”

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