CBSN

Jim DeMint Wants START Treaty, Omnibus Bill Read Aloud in the Senate

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010.
AP
Jim DeMint
CBS

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET with news that Senate votes to start debate on treaty without reading it aloud.

Conservative Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina plans to force the Senate to read aloud the U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty, as well as a 1,900-page omnibus spending bill, before the chamber can vote on either of them, the Hill reports. The move would slow down business in the Senate as Democrats try to push through some big pieces of legislation before leaving for Christmas recess.

Reading the START nuclear treaty could reportedly take up to 12 hours, and reading the lengthy omnibus could eat up between 40 to 60 hours.

The White House has strongly urged the Senate to ratify the START treaty before leaving for Christmas and has said President Obama won't leave for his vacation in Hawaii until it is ratified. Today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs released a statement blasting DeMint for holding up the deal.

"This is a new low in putting political stunts ahead of our national security, and it is exactly the kind of Washington game-playing that the American people are sick of," he said. "While some express concern that the Senate doesn't have time to debate the Treaty, Senator DeMint wants to waste 12 hours to read the text of a treaty that has been available to every member of the Senate and the public for more than eight months."

Earlier this month, DeMint said he was concerned the START treaty could weaken national security, particularly because it does not cover certain warheads.

"My biggest concern about the START treaty is that it accepts parity with Russia and I think explicitly or implicitly limits our ability to develop missile defense which may be the most important of our defense system in the next ten years," he said on CBS' "The Early Show."

Gibbs pointed out in his statement today that the treaty has been the subject of nearly 20 Senate hearings and is supported by President George H.W. Bush, every living Republican secretary of state, the United States' NATO allies, and the nation's military leadership.

"Every minute that the START Treaty is being read on the Senate floor increases the time that we lack verification of Russia's nuclear arsenal," Gibbs said. "It is the height of hypocrisy to complain that there is not enough time to consider this Treaty, while wasting so much time reading aloud a document that was submitted to the Senate months ago."

With respect to the omnibus bill, which would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, DeMint has expressed dissatisfaction with the thousands of pet projects, or earmarks put in the bill by both Democrats and Republicans.

"Democrats are intent on raiding every taxpayer dollar that they can grab from the Treasury on their way out of power," he said in a statement.

Along with voting on the START treaty and passing the omnibus bill, Senate leaders are also aiming to take care of the Bush tax cuts, "don't ask, don't tell," and an immigration measure called the DREAM Act before leaving for its break. The Senate was scheduled to break this Saturday but may stay in Washington to work through next week.

UPDATE, 4:45 p.m. ET: The Senate voted 66 to 32 to begin debate on the START treaty today. Debate will start Thursday.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor he did not think it would be essential to read the treaty in its entirety, CBS News Capitol Hill producer John Nolen reports. McConnell's office says that since debate will not begin until Thursday anyway, reading the bill on the floor today would have little impact.



Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.