The Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced a series of hearings on the New START treaty beginning early next week.

Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), the ranking Republican on the committee, will kick off efforts to ratify the nuclear arms reduction treaty with a hearing on Tuesday, May 18th featuring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"We look forward to receiving the New START Treaty and shepherding it through the ratification process," the senators said in a joint statement. "

"In the coming weeks, we will conduct a series of hearings with administration witnesses and outside experts from across the political spectrum to ensure the treaty is rigorously vetted," they added. "Not only will this give Democrats and Republicans ample opportunity to thoroughly review the New START and its annexes, but it will also help make certain the treaty is judged on its merits."

President Barack Obama signed the treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March, and said this past weekend that he would like to see the treaty ratified by this November's elections. Other senators in both parties have expressed less optimism about the treaty's chances this year.

In addition to the hearings with Clinton, Kerry and Lugar will host other foreign policy heavyweights in two separate hearings later this month. Former Secretary of State James Baker will testify Wednesday, May 19th on "the history and lessons of START," while former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger will testify Tuesday, May 25th on "the role of strategic arms control in a post-Cold War world."