Third-ranking Senate Republican to vote to ratify New START

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said on Tuesday that he would vote in favor of the New START Treaty, making the deal's Senate ratification all but certain.

Alexander became the highest-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership to come out in favor of the nuclear arms treaty between the U.S. and Russia. His two superiors, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), have said they'll vote against New START.

"I will vote to ratify the New START treaty ... because it leaves our country with enough nuclear warheads to blow anyone to kingdom come," Alexander said on the Senate floor.

Alexander said that the support from former military and diplomatic officials — including many Republicans — helped push him toward supporting ratification.

The treaty picked up momentum after a closed-door session on Monday in which senators were allowed to confidentially discuss the treaty and receive a briefing on it.

Following that meeting, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) announced he'd vote for ratification, adding to the handful of other Republicans who had said they'd vote in favor of the bill.

The treaty needs 67 votes for ratification in the Senate. If all 58 Democrats in the Senate vote for ratification, then nine Republicans would have to vote for ratification.

The START treaty appears headed for a vote in the Senate on Tuesday or Wednesday. The Senate must also authorize a continuing resolution on Tuesday to fund the government through March. Clearing both would go a long way toward finishing business in the lame-duck Congress for the year.