Sen. Corker: START being sunk by 'partisan' issues

A stalled nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia is in danger of not being ratified since the Senate is simultaneously dealing with other Democratic priorities, a Republican senator said Friday.

Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) — who voted for the treaty when it was before the Foreign Relations Committee — said that consideration of the DREAM Act and the repeal of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy is "poisoning the well" for GOP senators who might want to ratify the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

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"I'm just hoping that saner minds will prevail and that these issues that have been brought forth that are absolutely partisan political issues [...] I'm hoping that those will be taken down or I don't think the future of the START treaty over the next several days will be successful, based on what I'm watching," he said during debate on the Senate floor.

Corker's comments indicate that the treaty could be in danger of ratification, which would be a blow to President Obama, who has touted the accord as critical to U.S. national security.

Just two days ago, 66 senators voted to advance to formal debate on START. Experts considered the vote to be a strong sign that the Senate would ratify the treaty during the lame-duck session. 

Ratification requires the support of two-thirds of the Senate — 67 if all 100 members vote — meaning that Democrats need the support of nine GOP senators if they vote unanimously for the treaty.

But some GOP senators who had previously indicated openness to voting for ratification during the lame-duck have cooled to that.

In addition to Corker, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who had expressed hope that the agreement could be ratified this year, is still unhappy with its missile defense provisions. He appeared on the Senate floor to offer a missile defense amendment some believe could anger Russia if it passes. McCain and other GOP senators, however, might not vote for ratification without it. 

Corker accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) of playing politics while the treaty is in the floor.

"What's happened over the course of the last 12 hours is by filing cloture last night on 'Don't ask, don't tell' and on the DREAM Act during the lame-duck session in the middle of the START treaty — what it says is: Republicans, and I don't even like to use partisan labels here, but Republicans, y'all need to rise up above partisanship and deal with foreign policy in a bipartisan way, but in the midst of that, we're going to throw some partisan issues in here," he said.

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