Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has placed a hold on some State Department nominees, pending Foggy Bottom turning over to him the U.S. government negotiating record on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Hill sources say.
The U.S. has signed the CTBT treaty, which bans the testing of nuclear weapons, but the Senate has not ratified it. Kyl was central to the effort in 1999 to prevent Senate ratification, and it was defeated overwhelmingly. Obama said in a speech on nonproliferation in Prague in April that he would like to seek the advise and consent of the Senate on CTBT. Kyl's current documentation demands seem to be an indication that he will move to try to prevent Obama from doing so, as he prevented Senate ratification of the CTBT treaty a decade ago under President Bill Clinton.
"Kyl thought he got an agreement" when he agreed to lift the hold on the nomination of Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher last month, one Hill foreign policy hand explained. "But he was apparently not happy with what he got afterwards, and he's asking for more documentation."
The State Department's Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Rich Verma is said to be handling the matter, the Hill aide said. "There are certain precedents about what the executive branch can give Congress, they don't necessarily give them everything." So that needs to be worked out, he said.
One official thought that a handover to Kyl of documents on the CTBT negotiations - apparently all already in the public domain - was being arranged for Friday, and that the whole matter might be resolved then.
A spokesman for Senator Kyl didn't immediately respond to queries.
The official said it was his understanding that Kyl's hold did not apply to ambassador nominees (it did however seem to be affecting the long suffering acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, who finally had a hold lifted by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) last week.)
Obama met with his nominee to be US ambassador to Japan John Roos at the Oval Office today.
Tauscher was traveling in Brazil this week with other U.S. officials.