Obama to huddle with Powell on START

President Obama will meet Wednesday afternoon with one of his closest Republican allies, Colin Powell, to discuss the stalled nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

Vice President Joe Biden — the White House's point man on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) — will join Obama and Powell in the Oval Office, after which the president will speak to the press. 

Powell, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, served as President George W. Bush's first Secretary of State before leaving the administration in 2005. He endorsed Obama over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential election.

START has been stalled for months due to Republican concerns over nuclear modernization and missile defense. But in recent weeks, Obama has brought in a cadre of GOP officials to urge ratification of the pact, which requires the votes of 67 senators.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs sounded optimistic about the treaty Wednesday morning, predicting Obama would sign it by Christmas. But Senate Republicans have threatened to block action on major items in the brief lame-duck session until a deal is reached on the expiring Bush-era tax cuts.

Powell is also expected to discuss education and the high school dropout rate with Obama and Biden.