Kerry delays vote on new START treaty

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, postponed a vote on a strategic arms treaty with Russia until mid-September.

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Kerry had scheduled a committee vote on the arms treaty with Russia for Wednesday but decided to postpone it citing senators’ requests for more time to review the treaty as well as background documents from the executive branch and intelligence community.

The treaty — referred to as New START, or Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty — is one of Obama’s major foreign policy initiatives. Two-thirds of the Senate is needed to ratify the treaty, but Republicans have been reluctant to support it. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations panel, is the only GOP member to voice support for the treaty. 

"In consultation with Senator Lugar, I chose to reschedule the vote to be responsive to the concerns of our members so that we can build bipartisan consensus around a treaty that our military leaders all agree will make America safer," Kerry said in a statement Tuesday. 

"I strongly believe that timely ratification of this treaty is vital to America’s security. It will strengthen our relationship with Russia and enhance the global non-proliferation regime, furthering our efforts to deal with serious potential threats from Iran, North Korea and loose nuclear materials," he said. "And it will restore much needed visibility into Russia’s nuclear arsenal, which has been diminishing every day since the original START Treaty and its verification provisions expired in December."

Pushing the panel’s vote to September may give the Obama administration more time to convince skeptical Republicans, but it would also propel a high-profile issue into intense midterm election territory. Some treaty supporters fear the partisan bickering just a few months before Nov. 2 could hurt the administration’s chances of winning over the necessary Republican votes to ratify the treaty.

—This story was updated at 4:38 p.m.