The Cable

Lugar: Time to get moving on New START

With the Senate Foreign Relations Committee having delayed its vote on President Obama's nuclear treaty with Russia until September, the committee's top Republican is warning that time is of the essence.

Committee chairman John Kerry, D-MA, told committee members at Tuesday's business meeting that even though the committee could have approved the treaty, allowing it to go to the full Senate, he felt it better to take the time to build more consensus before requiring senators to stake out their positions.

But ranking member Richard Lugar, R-IN, warned that if the treaty stalls, it might be hard to build up momentum again. He also said he had argued internally for holding the committee vote this week to allow Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, to go ahead and reserve precious Senate floor time for treaty consideration in September.

If the committee doesn't vote until September, it's "problematic" to try to get floor time before the next break, Lugar said, meaning that the December "lame duck" post-election session would be where the treaty would get a full Senate debate.

"If not [before the election], then whether it works out in December or not is no longer a matter of parliamentary debate, it's a matter of national security," he said, citing the fact that U.S. inspectors have not been able to verify Russian behavior regarding nuclear weapons deployment since the original START agreement expired late last year. "We ought to vote now and let the chips fall where they may. It's that important."

"The problem of the breakdown of our verification, which lapsed December 5, is very serious and impacts our national security," Lugar said. Members may want to take extra time to consider the treaty, but if they are really concerned about Russian activity, ratifying the treaty is the way to address that, he added.

Kerry implored committee members to take the time over recess to think it over and come back to town ready to vote.

"We currently have no verifiability, no regime in place with Russia," he said. "My hope is that we can do this expeditiously when we come back ... Every senator should be prepared to mark up this resolution of advice and consent on September 15 or 16."

A draft of the resolution will be circulated well before then, Kerry added.

Meanwhile, more fence-sitting senators seem to be signaling that they are getting ready to support New START.

The Cable has been asking every single GOP senator repeatedly to state his or her position on the treaty. Before today, only Lugar and Bob Bennett, R-UT, had indicated support and only James Inhofe, R-OK, and Jim DeMint, R-SC, had said they would oppose it.

Today, The Cable caught up with Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, who had previously said he had not come to a conclusion. He now says he is taking steps to prepare for a yes vote.

"I'm waiting for further action on the modernization of the nuclear weapons program," he said, referring to Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl's ongoing negotiations with the administration over how much money will be made available for nuclear labs and other items.

Lieberman also said when the treaty does come up, he will put forth side documents called "reservations," which can be attached to the treaty to express congressional concerns while still allowing the treaty to go into effect without any changes.

"I may want to submit some reservations or understandings, which will enable me to vote for the treaty," he said.

The Cable also caught up with Senate Armed Services Committee member Jeff Sessions, R-AL, who wouldn't commit but seemed to be leaning toward a no vote.

Sessions said the treaty is not really important, gives too much to the Russians without getting enough in return, and compromises U.S. missile defense.

"It was pretty obvious to me that the administration team was all obsessed with getting it done and signing this treaty as some sort of psychological political statement to the world, and the Russians played us like a Stradivarius," he said. "I'm not buying the argument that this is necessary."

Sessions is most upset that President Obama laid out a goal of moving to a world without nuclear weapons in the first place. "This is such an unwise and incomprehensible policy that it makes everyone uneasy," Sessions said.

Still, Sessions won't say for sure which way he will go. When asked if he agreed with Lugar that time was running out, he said he doesn't have to state his position until a vote comes up.

"The vote's not today," he pointed out.

Getty Images

The Cable

32 State Department nominations advance to full Senate

At today's Senate Foreign Relations Committee business meeting, Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, tabled the nomination of Matthew Bryza to be the next ambassador to Azerbaijan, deferring to a request for a delay from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA.  The Bryza nomination could come up again during the next meeting in September.

But the committee did approve, with one unanimous voice vote, the nominations of 32 other would-be ambassadors and officials, sending them on to the full Senate. Among the notable names are Jim Jeffrey to be envoy to Iraq, Frank Ricciardone to be ambassador to Turkey, current U.N. deputy representative Alejandro D. Wolff to be ambassador to Chile, Holbrooke deputy Paul Jones to be ambassador to Malaysia, and deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Scot Marciel to be the next envoy to Indonesia.

Full list after the jump:

1. Peter Michael McKinley to be Ambassador to the Republic of Colombia

2. Rose M. Likins to be Ambassador to the Republic of Peru

3. Mark Feierstein to be Assistant Administrator (Latin America and the Caribbean) of the United States Agency for International Development

4. Mimi E. Alemayehou to be Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

5. Christopher W. Murray to be Ambassador to the Republic of the Congo

6. Mark Charles Storella  to be Ambassador to the Republic of Zambia

7. James Frederick Entwistle to be Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo

8. J. Thomas Dougherty to be Ambassador to Burkina Faso

9. Eric D. Benjaminson to be Ambassador to Gabon & to serve concurrently as Ambassador to Sao Tome & Principe

10. Phillip Carter III to be Ambassador to Cote-d'Ivoire

11. Michael S. Owen to be Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone

12. Laurence D. Wohlers to be Ambassador to the Central African Republic

13. Richard M. Lobo to be Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau, BBG

14. Patrick S. Moon to be Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina

15. Luis E. Arreaga-Rodas to be Ambassador to the Republic of Iceland

16. Daniel Bennett Smith to be Ambassador to Greece

17. Scot Alan Marciel to be Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia

19. Helen Patricia Reed-Rowe to be Ambassador to the Republic of Palau

20. Paul W. Jones to be Ambassador to Malaysia

21. Nisha Desai Biswal to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

22. James Franklin Jeffrey to be Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq

23. Maura Connelly to be Ambassador to the Republic of Lebanon

24. Gerald M. Feierstein to be Ambassador to the Republic of Yemen

25. Francis Joseph Ricciardone Jr. to be Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey

26. Robert M. Orr to be U.S. Director of the Asian Development Bank with the rank of Ambassador

27. Alejandro D. Wolff to be Ambassador to Chile

28. Pamela Bridgewater Awkard to be Ambassador to Jamaica

29. Phyllis Powers to be Ambassador to Panama

30. Terrence McCulley to be Ambassador to Nigeria

31. Michele T. Bond to be Ambassador to Lesotho

32. Robert P. Jackson to be Ambassador to Cameroon