| JRL Home | JRL Simple/Mobile | RSS | Newswire | Archives | JRL Newsletter | Support | About
Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

Senate Beats Back Critics to Debate Nuclear Treaty With Russia

U.S. CapitolDec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Senate is scheduled to begin debate today on ratification of a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, after turning back Republican opponents' objections and appeals for a delay until next year.

The 66-32 vote yesterday signals how narrow a majority President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party may muster for the treaty, which requires at least 67 votes for approval. Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, was absent for the vote and has supported the treaty.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said the chamber will debate the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, at the same time as it considers an omnibus spending bill, a workload most Republicans say is too ambitious. Still, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky agreed to the Democrats' plan to start debate and said it was "not essential" to slow consideration by requiring a reading of the arms treaty on the Senate floor.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs yesterday accused Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican of using a "political stunt" by planning to force a reading of the entire treaty text in an attempt to delay a vote.

The treaty is central to Obama's attempt to reset U.S. relations with Russia, and ratification would be a victory on one of his top foreign policy priorities. The administration and Senate leaders have said they have enough support to get the two-thirds majority needed to approve ratification -- 67 votes, if all 100 senators are present and voting.

Calls for Delay

A dozen treaty opponents lined up behind Arizona Senator Jon Kyl at a press conference to lambaste Reid's decision to proceed on the treaty and the spending bill simultaneously. Most favored delaying until next year, with some calling for renegotiating elements of the treaty.

"Both of those deserve the full focus and attention of the American people," Kyl said.

Critics say the treaty limits U.S. options for developing missile defenses, a project Russia has opposed. They also argue that the new pact's verification standards aren't strong enough and that Obama hasn't made enough assurances that the existing U.S. arsenal will be adequately maintained.

The opponents are up against current and former U.S. military commanders and Cabinet secretaries, including Henry Kissinger and Colin Powell, who have urged that the Senate support ratification.

Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee and a treaty supporter, said the Senate has had months, including a dozen open and classified hearings, to consider the agreement.

Support From Military

Military commanders and defense and nuclear officials have testified that the accord doesn't limit missile-defense options and that it improves the ability to verify Russia's adherence to agreed weapons thresholds. The Obama administration also has cited its planned increase in spending for modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal to more than $80 billion over 10 years.

"Failure of the U.S. Senate to approve the treaty would result in an expansion of arms competition with Russia," Lugar said in a statement. "With all that we need to achieve, why would we add to our problems by separating ourselves from Russia over a treaty that our own military wants ratified?"

Questions and Answers

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, brought two 3-inch thick notebooks to a press conference after Kyl's. The books contained 900 questions from lawmakers with the administration's answers.

"We should stay here as long as it takes to get this treaty ratified," Kerry told reporters at the briefing. "And we are prepared to do so."

Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, a member of the Foreign Relations panel, said that even though he voted against proceeding to consideration, he plans to support ratification if there is a "full and open debate" and the resolution isn't weakened in the process.

Democrats control 58 votes in the 100-seat Senate until next month, when Republicans will have five more seats as a result of November's midterm elections.

Russian lawmakers are awaiting U.S. Senate action before proceeding to their own ratification vote. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the accord in April.

The treaty limits each side's strategic warheads to no more than 1,550, from 2,200 allowed previously, and sets a maximum of 800 land-, air- and sea-based launchers. Each of the last three arms-reduction treaties was ratified with more than 90 votes. The previous treaty expired in December 2009.


Keyword Tags:

Russia, Nuclear Issues, Missile Defense - Russia News - Russia - Johnson's Russia List

Bookmark and Share - Back to the Top -        


Bookmark and Share

- Back to the Top -        

  Follow Johnson's Russia List on Twitter Tweet