Senator Jon Kyl, The New York Times’ John Burns, Andrew Breitbart, Robert George, Matt Spalding and Frank Gaffney
Just because you are taking the week off doesn’t mean we do,
Today we cover the effort to stop START with Senator Kyl (that transcript will be posted below shortly) and Heritage’s Matt Spalding and Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney, the terrorism arrest in Great Britain today with the New York Times’ John Burns, and Pigford 101 with Andrew Breitbart.
Plus, a conversation with Robert George and Sheriff Girgis, two of the three authors of “What is Marriage?,” an important new article the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.
UPDATE: The GOP senators who most need to hear about opposition to a vote on START in this congress are Senators Bennett (Utah), Cochran (Mississippi), Corker (Tennessee), Isakson (Georgia) and Snowe (Maine), The switchboard is 202-224-3121.
HH: We begin this hour and this week with our favorite United States Senator, Arizona’s Jon Kyl, the whip of the Republicans in the United States Senate. Senator Kyl, Merry Christmas to you, welcome back.
JK: Thanks. Merry Christmas to all of your listeners, Hugh, it’s great to be with you. Some how or other, this is d?j? vu. It seems like just a year ago that we were talking four days before Christmas Eve. Oh, that was the health care debate. That’s right.
HH: It is sad that you guys never get to spend the week at home. I wish that were other. Can you tell us why Harry Reid has decided to keep you when I don’t think he has the votes for the START treaty? Or am I wrong about that?
JK: Well, I don’t know whether he has the votes, but he’s keeping us against the deadline, because that’s the best way to ensure potential passage of things that he would like to pass, to please certain constituencies. For example, he brought up the DREAM Act now. He lost that one. But he brought up the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy. He was able to win that one. Bear in mind, these are without any opportunity for amendment. It’s a take it or leave it, have to vote on it, and you cannot amend it. And then he wants to bring up something called the 9/11 Fund, which is the creation of a fund, I still don’t know exactly how much it is, around $7 billion dollars, to provide compensation for people who have become ill allegedly as a result of working on the cleanup from 9/11. There are other issues we could talk about on that legislation, but there are other issues. By the way, we still have not passed the continuing resolution to fund the United States government, which was really the only reason we had to come back in the lame duck session. That might be done by tomorrow night. And then there’s the START treaty you mentioned.
HH: Let’s focus on START at the start, although I want to come to the continuing resolution and these other things as well. What is the state of play? Both you and Senator McConnell over the weekend appeared on big news shows, and said you will not vote for the START treaty this year, but it will require 34 Republicans to say no. Do you think they’re there?
JK: Don’t know. It’ll be very, very close. I’ll say that. And that, in and of itself, is bad news. I mean, ordinarily, these treaties are passed by wide margins, because they represent consensus. That’s the way the Senate is supposed to work. Here, you have a situation in which we gave some advice to the administration, it didn’t take it, and therefore, some of us aren’t willing to give our consent. Whether, well, my guess is it’ll be a matter of two or three either way as to whether or not they get the votes to ratify the treaty. And incidentally, we don’t know when that will come. We’ve been on the treaty a total of about four days. It’s been over the space of about six days, but we keep changing subjects, you know, going from Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell back to the treaty, and then to the DREAM Act and then back to the treaty. And now we’re going to do the continuing resolution tomorrow morning and then come back to the treaty after that, and so on. So we’ve only processed two amendments. We will do two more this evening. And then we’ll be getting five more pending, and there are, well, many, many, many amendments, and obviously not time to do them all before Christmas.
HH: You and Senator McConnell held together the Republican caucus on the omnibus, the dreadful attempt to spend $1.2 trillion.
HH: And a lot of people thought that was lost. And then all of a sudden, it was gone, and Senator Reid pulled it back. Is it possible we’ll see the same sort of exercise of common sense by your Republican colleagues to recognize that a letter will do here? It’s not, I mean, you’re not foreclosing voting against START in 2011, are you?
JK: No, I mean, we’re talking about next month. I mean, this is December, and in about, actually, five weeks from Friday, we could take up the treaty and have it done by the first week, by the end of the first week in February. So we’ve made that offer to them. It’s not like they have to do it. Obviously, the reason they want to do it is because they have some additional Senators to convince next year, because some of the Senators who were defeated in the election will be voting on it this week, whereas if we wait until next month, then you would have some new Senators voting on it.
HH: Senator Kyl, obviously you don’t speak ill of particular people. That’s always been your practice. But you do have Senators who were defeated, or who are retiring. Do any of them have qualms about doing a jam down? This has never happened in the history of a lame duck Congress, I believe, in the history of the United States.
JK: No, it’s never happened, and I’ll tell you what’s distressing to me, without mentioning names, in some cases, some of the people who are leaving are essentially gone anyway. I mean, some of them are physically gone, some of them are not thinking about it, they haven’t participated in the debates. They’ve moved on to other things, and that’s part of what we knew would happen. And again, no aspersions on any of them, but we really ought to be focused on it, the people who are going to have to be involved in the funding of it, the implementing of it, over the next decade.
HH: Senator Kyl, what are you major concerns why you want longer time to debate, and to amend, possibly, START?
JK We haven’t even gotten to amendments to the resolution of ratification. You can either amend the treaty itself, or you can amend the resolution of ratification. And since the other side announced at the outset, and they have the votes to back this up, there will be no amendments to the treaty, John Kerry announced. Well, we’ve lost two amendments to the treaty. We’ll probably lose two more tonight, maybe another one tomorrow. So we figure well, now is the time to turn to the resolution of ratification and try our hand at some amendments on that. But we won’t even get to bring those amendments up until after the cloture vote. And the cloture vote is the vote to cut off debate. That vote will occur tomorrow afternoon. So as of tomorrow afternoon, the Senate will have voted to cut off debate on the START treaty. We then have thirty hours to do our best to cram in as much as we can in there before the leader can call it for a final vote. That’s what I predicted two weeks ago would happen, they would try to jam us up against Christmas, and that’s exactly what is happening.
HH: Will any of your colleagues take to the floor and refuse to relinquish it in the manner that Bernie Sanders did?
JK: I don’t know. I can tell you that that’s easier said than done, and for tactical reasons, there are reasons not to do that sometimes, which I’d prefer not to get into here.
HH: Sure. All right, the ways of the Senate are arcane, and I do not attempt to know them.
JK: Hugh, Hugh, can I explain? If you are one person, and you are by definition, by your own self-designation a socialist, and you want to stand up and rant and rave about something and not be effective at all in what you do, you can do what Senator Sanders did. If you are trying to persuade colleagues, and you need to persuade three or four of them in order to win the vote, that may not be the most convincing way to make your argument. Let me just put it that way.
HH: Now let me ask you about your colleague from Arizona. He made an impassioned argument about missile defense, which I do not believe the audience quite understood. He lost his amendment, and Senator McCain’s amendment would have been a good thing. What was he arguing, and what is that concern?
JK: It was a very good amendment. And the essence of it was that the preamble to the treaty, coupled with the signing statement of the Russians, coupled with things that their leaders have all said, create a legal pretext for them to withdraw from the treaty. And that pretext is if the United States develops its missile defenses in ways that represent quantitative or qualitative improvement, which we most certainly will try to do. At least we should. And as a result, you have one side to a bargain saying we get to withdraw from this treaty if the U.S. develops missile defenses, and the U.S. saying no, you don’t, that’s not a grounds for withdrawal. That is a bad thing for any contract, where you don’t have a meeting of the minds by the parties. You have a built in dispute that is going to occur later down the road, and that is exactly what will happen if the United States does go forward with certain missile defense developments. The Russians will say well, we told you we were going to withdraw in that event, and we’re going to withdraw from the treaty now. And President Obama will probably say well no, wait a minute, don’t do that, let’s see if we can talk here, and perhaps cut short some of the missile defense that we otherwise would deploy.
HH: If 34 or more Republicans vote against this, Senator Kyl, does that kill it for good?
HH: Or does it mean it can be brought back…
JK: No, they can bring it back any time. He could bring it back after Christmas and before New Year, he could bring it back next January, he could bring it back in May. So I just don’t understand what the absolute rush to get this done before Christmas is, except they know they can jam us.
HH: Well, I understand why Democrats want to do it. I don’t understand any Republican voting for it.
JK: Well, the ones who plan to vote for it are not expressing why they want to vote for it on the floor. So I’m not sure if you’re ever going to understand their motivations. But there are some Republicans who do want to support it.
HH: Is it useful at this late hour for people to contact their Senators?
JK: Sure, sure. I mean, it’s always useful for constituents to let their public servants know how they want them to vote on certain matters. And I would encourage them all to do that, either yes or no.
HH: All right, I have about two minutes here, Senator Kyl. The continuing resolution, some reports say it will run through March, that it will be pretty much at the current funding level, and represents a major victory for recognizing the lame duck is lame duck, and for fiscal restraint? What’s your assessment?
JK: That’s true. There are a couple of little things you can quibble with it, but that is true. I mean, we got rid of the omnibus appropriation bill with its 6,700 earmarks. All of that stuff is gone now. And the spending level, you know, we’d like it be a little lower, but the beauty of it is that it only goes through March, so the new Republican Congress in the House will have the ability for the last six months of the fiscal year to actually reduce the numbers even lower, if they do that. And I know that that’s what they want to try to do.
HH: Senator Jon Kyl, I hope you get home in time for Christmas. Merry Christmas to you, and thanks for all your efforts to keep START stopped for the time being.
JK: Thanks, Hugh. Merry Christmas again to you and all your listeners.
HH: Thank you.
End of interview.