Senate Democrats Make Final Push to Ratify Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty

December 20, 2010

By Mark Drajem and Ryan J. Donmoyer, Bloomberg News

Supporters of a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia said they’re confident of having enough votes to ratify the accord, even as top Republicans said they will try to delay it until next year.

The Senate yesterday rejected a Republican-sponsored amendment that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said would have scuttled the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Lawmakers are scheduled to resume debate today on the treaty, one of their last major pieces of business before adjourning.

“I believe it will pass, and I believe there will be a vote” before the end of the year, Kerry said on ABC’s “This Week” program. His view was echoed by Vice President Joe Biden, Illinois Democratic Senator Richard Durbin and Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations panel and a treaty supporter.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on CNN he’s decided to oppose the treaty, and asked the administration to put off a vote until next year. Arizona Senator Jon Kyl said on Fox he opposes holding the vote during the post-election lame- duck session of Congress. SenatorLindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined in the calls for a delay.

“If you really want to have a chance of passing Start, you’d better start over,” Graham, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.

Obama’s Priority

President Barack Obama has made ratification of the treaty, known as Start, his top foreign policy priority during the post- election lame-duck session. Democrats, who now have 58 votes in the 100-member Senate, will have a narrower majority in the next Congress starting in January, which might make ratification more difficult. Ratification requires a two-thirds majority.

Senators yesterday voted 60-32 to reject an amendment from Republican Senator Jim Risch of Idaho to add language on tactical nuclear weapons to the treaty preamble, which would have reopened the agreement to negotiations.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected Republican requests for more time and said a final vote on the treaty would be held before Congress leaves this week.

“The Obama administration has spent the past eight months working to address legitimate concerns and the Senate has conducted an extensive bipartisan review,” Reid said in a statement.

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