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White House hammers GOP stall threats on START

*** UPDATE II *** In an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden blasted Republican Sen. Jon Kyl for his comment that it was disrespectful to vote on the START treaty during the Christmas season. He said Kyl should let the Senate vote.

“Get out of the way. There's too much at stake for America's national security,” Biden said. “And don't tell me about Christmas. I understand Christmas. I have been a senator for a long time.”

Biden noted that there are still 10 days before Christmas. “I hope I don't get in the way of your Christmas shopping, but this is the nation's business,” he said. “This is the national security that's at stake. Act.”

*** UPDATE *** DeMint's threat to force a reading of the START treaty word-for-word has been called off, at least for today. In an agreement with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid opted not to start debate on the START treaty, even though he produced a successful vote to do so, NBC'S Ken Strickland reports. Debate on the treaty will now officially start tomorrow morning rather than this afternoon.

The Senate voted 66-32 to bring the treaty to the floor for consideration.

1:02 pm: The White House is calling a GOP senator’s stalling tactic to delay a vote on a strategic arms treaty with Russia “a new low” and a “political stunt” that jeopardizes national security.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs blasted Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., for halting consideration of the START treaty by forcing a reading of the bill on the Senate floor, a procedural trick that would take up hours of time precious to Democrats who are eager to accomplish their remaining legislative goals before the end of the year.

In a press release, Gibbs called the tactic “exactly the kind of Washington game-playing that the American people are sick of.”

On the Senate floor this morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid called DeMint's action "a colossal waste of time."

Those who object to ratificiation of the START treaty argue that the Senate has not devoted enough time to debating the measure, including its proposals for modernizing America’s existing nuclear arsenal.

Earlier this month, 21 Republican senators signed a letter urging that the treaty not be addressed during the lame duck session.

"It would be unwise and improper to do this in a hurried fashion over the course of only a few days," they wrote.

The treaty is a top priority of the Obama administration and has been endorsed by every living Republican Secretary of State, leading backers to complain that Republicans are simply hoping to deny the White House a last victory before the start of the new Congress.

NBC's Ken Strickland contributed.