START Gaining GOP Support; Iraqi Lawmakers Approve Government

BY Tom LeGro  December 21, 2010 at 9:15 AM EST

New START Gaining GOP Support

Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown, left, shakes hands with Jason Meininger, special assistant to Sen. John Kerry D-Mass., after a closed session about New START on Monday. Brown announced that he will support the treaty and said that he believes there are enough Republican votes for ratification. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Senate may be moving closer to action on New START with Russia, a major nuclear arms control treaty, as President Obama appears to be gaining the support of some reluctant Republican senators. Lawmakers are expected to move toward a final vote this week, and the Obama administration and senior Democrats are expressing confidence that they have enough votes for ratification.

On Monday, President Obama received a major endorsement of the treaty from the nation’s top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who appealed to the Senate to ratify the treaty.

You can read Adm. Mullen’s letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee here, via the Washington Post.

Senior Democrats were pushing for a decisive vote Tuesday to cut off debate and set the stage for the final vote. According to the Associated Press, Republicans and Democrats were discussing amendments to the accompanying resolution that would deal with Republican problems with missile defense and build support for the agreement. Such amendments would not need negotiations with the Russian government.

Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin has details on those amendments:

“Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) filed one of these amendments Monday, along with Kirk and Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Their amendment would codify a pledge to complete the current four-stage plan for developing a missile defense system, preserve the option of going back to the George W. Bush administration scheme for European missile defense sites, state that U.S. missile defense plans are not grounds for Russian withdrawal from the treaty, and pledge not to share any U.S. missile telemetry data with Russia.”

Iraqi Lawmakers Approve New Government

Iraqi lawmakers have unanimously approved a new government to be headed by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The long-awaited vote on the new government ends nine months of political deadlock after an inconclusive parliament election in March.

FCC Set to Enact Rules on Net Neutrality

The FCC is poised to enact new rules governing net neutrality — a concept aimed at preventing Internet providers from interfering with web traffic. The rules are expected to bar providers from discriminating against legal Internet traffic and require more transparency. They also would let broadband providers for the first time charge more to companies that want faster service for delivery of games, videos or other services. An official announcement is expected Tuesday morning.

Census Bureau Figures Set for Release

The Census Bureau’s once-a-decade government count is expected to be released Tuesday. Census estimates provided this month based on birth and death records place the 2010 count somewhere between 305.7 million and 312.7 million, up from 281.4 million in 2000. Demographers believe the official 2010 count will be 308.7 million or lower, putting U.S. growth at around 9 percent, the lowest since the 1940 census.

The Associated Press has a list of projections here. The numbers will also be used to reapportion the 435 House seats among the 50 states, helping to shape the political landscape for the next 10 years.

Toyota to Pay $32 Million in Fines

Toyota Motor Corp. has agreed to pay the U.S. government more than $32 million in new fines to settle an investigation into its handling of two big safety recalls. The civil penalties, coming on top of earlier fines in a related probe, mean the world’s biggest automaker is paying a total of $48.8 million to resolve investigations into unintended acceleration because of floor mats that can jam gas pedals and steering rods that could break, NPR reports.