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Republican responsibility ; Late-session activity shows GOP can overcome its anti-Obama bias

Voters elect their lawmakers to serve full terms, not to loiter during the final weeks or months. That could be reason enough to welcome the U.S. Senate's late-session acts to ratify a nuclear arms treaty with Russia and to repeal the immoral policy barring gays from serving openly in the military. In truth, the Senate votes were welcome because senators in the minority party stopped procrastinating and took up both matters on their merits.

Republican leaders had brayed that tough decisions were being forced on them late in the year because President Obama would find it tougher to win the votes after January. But the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia had been pending since well before the November election. And if senators couldn't hear the train coming on the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," then someone should hold a mirror under their noses.

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate's Republican leader, led the do-nothing force. For example, McConnell moaned that ratification of New START had been truncated "to meet another arbitrary deadline or the wish list of the liberal base." The senator would have Americans overlook that national security experts who had served presidents of both parties considered the treaty sound. As for "don't ask, don't tell," the senator attempted a procedural gimmick to further complicate its repeal. Fortunately it failed.

In truth, McConnell's objections had little to do with policy and everything to do with his single-minded focus to obstruct the Obama agenda with any gambit or argument, no matter how inane. Several Republicans refused to toe the line when they saw McConnell also placing them on the crazy side of a fair-minded bill to pay for the medical care of workers who cleaned up ground zero after the 9/1 1 attacks and still experience health problems.

In a face-saving speech, McConnell attributed his foot-dragging to his old saw that rushing the bill prevented the Senate from passing a more "responsible" version. We suspect he wanted not a more responsible bill but no bill at all if it meant a success for the Democratic president. His GOP conference had blocked the bill days earlier.

Some wags are calling the Senate's flurry of late-session action victories for the president. Maybe they were. We prefer to herald the fact that, for a few moments, a few Senate Republicans chose logic over blind partisanship. Now if only that can carry into next year.

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