Dems reach magic number on arms treaty as GOP support builds

Dems reach magic number on arms treaty as GOP support builds

Senate Democrats appear to have the nine Republican votes they need to ratify the New START nuclear treaty this week and give President Obama his third major victory of the lame-duck session.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) told reporters Monday afternoon that he would vote to ratify the treaty and also support a motion to end debate, which the Senate will consider Tuesday.

“I believe it’s something that’s important for our country and I believe it’s a good move forward,” Brown said after emerging from a classified briefing in the Old Senate Chamber.

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He was the ninth Republican senator to announce publicly that he would vote to ratify or is leaning strongly in favor of doing so. All 58 members of the Democratic conference — including two independents, Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump aide: Dems are trying to humiliate Cabinet nominees Sanders slams Pruitt’s call for ‘more debate’ on climate science The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Vt.) and Joe Lieberman (Conn.) — support it.

“I believe we have the votes to pass this treaty,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John KerryJohn KerryKerry: Trump can’t instantly undo Obama actions ‘All or nothing’ leaves us nothing Kerry: Trump comments on German chancellor ‘inappropriate’ MORE (D-Mass.) said after the briefing.

Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonTrump picks Obama nominee for VA secretary Five races to watch in 2017 GOP senators wary of nuking filibuster MORE (R-Ga.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, became the tenth Republican to back the treaty on Monday evening.

"I supported it in committee, I made a speech for it on the first day — sounds like it," he said when asked if he would vote 'yes.'

Kerry released to colleagues who attended Monday’s briefing a letter endorsing ratification from Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“This treaty has the full support of your uniformed military, and we all support ratification,” Mullen wrote in the letter to Kerry.

“I continue to believe that ratification of the New Start treaty is vital to U.S. national security,” Mullen concluded. 

Senate ratification requires 67 votes, or the support of two-thirds of the senators present in the chamber, assuming there is a quorum.

GOP senators — including those who plan to vote for the treaty and those who say they’ll oppose it — have told The Hill they expect the resolution of ratification to pass easily.

Two other GOP senators announced Monday afternoon they are likely to support the treaty.
 


“I’m leaning toward supporting the treaty but I want to makes sure our side gets a fair hearing,” Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.) said. 


Said Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio: “I support it.”
 


“We need the verification,” Voinovich added, referring to the absence of U.S. arms inspectors in Russia since the last START treaty expired in December 2009.

Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerOne year later, the Iran nuclear deal is a success by any measure Paul, Lee call on Trump to work with Congress on foreign policy Booker to vote against Tillerson MORE (Tenn.), a Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he is also likely to vote for the treaty if the Obama administration answers some more questions about it and if Democratic leaders allow additional Republican amendments to receive votes. 
 

Corker said he plans to vote 'yes' unless the Senate debate becomes “derailed” in the next two days, but he could not say what kind of dramatic event could result in such a scenario.

Corker said the classified briefing held Monday did not reveal any new intelligence findings that would change his mind.

“I’m in the same place I was when I voted to pass it out of committee,” he said.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerCBO: 18 million could lose coverage after ObamaCare repeal Week ahead: Trump's health pick takes the hot seat Schumer puts GOP on notice over ObamaCare repeal MORE (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, announced Monday that Sen. Thad CochranThad CochranGOP senators voice misgivings about short-term spending bill Trump's wrong to pick Bannon or Sessions for anything Bottom Line MORE (R-Miss.) would also support the treaty. 


When later asked whether he would vote for the treaty, Cochran said: “I think so.”

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) said a recent letter from Obama reassured him enough to vote for ratification.

Obama sent a letter to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellStates sue to block last-minute Obama environmental rule GOP senators introducing ObamaCare replacement Monday Senators introduce dueling miners bills MORE (Ky.) over the weekend assuring him that the treaty would not prevent his administration from moving forward with missile defense systems.

“It takes care of me,” Bennett told The Associated Press.

The two Republican senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP rep faces testy crowd at constituent meeting over ObamaCare DeVos vows to be advocate for 'great' public schools GOP senators introducing ObamaCare replacement Monday MORE, have already announced they would vote for New START in the lame-duck session.

Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.), ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is an outspoken supporter who has worked for months to corral GOP votes. He has predicted for several days that the treaty will win ratification.

Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenSenate Finance panel to hold Price hearing next week Overnight Finance: Price puts stock trading law in spotlight | Lingering questions on Trump biz plan | Sanders, Education pick tangle over college costs Trump Treasury pick gets support from ex-mortgage assistance leader MORE (D-Ore.) may miss the final ratification vote because he underwent surgery for prostate cancer on Monday. His absence won’t affect the vote, assuming all other supporters show up, because 66 “aye” votes would make up two-thirds of 99.

Senate Democrats are also eyeing a pool of Republican senators who could give them additional votes. 


Sen. John McCainJohn McCainThe rise of Carlson, and the fall of Van Susteren Booker to vote against Tillerson Earnest: GOP intellectually dishonest on Manning pardon MORE (R-Ariz.)


McCain told The Hill Monday afternoon he is still undecided about whether to support the treaty. 


He sponsored an amendment to the preamble that Kerry argued would have derailed the treaty. Fifty-nine senators voted to reject McCain’s amendment, which only 37 supported. 


McCain’s close ally, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamHaley slams United Nations, echoing Trump Haley to question US funding of UN: report Graham, Cruz proposal to defund the U.N. is misguided MORE (R-S.C.), has announced his opposition to ratifying the treaty in the lame-duck, and McCain’s home-state colleague, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), has emerged as the leading Republican critic and opponent of the treaty. If McCain supported it, he would do so despite Kyl’s strong objections. 


Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkGOP senator: Don't link Planned Parenthood to ObamaCare repeal Republicans add three to Banking Committee Juan Williams: McConnell won big by blocking Obama MORE (R-Ill.)


Kirk is a centrist who voted on Saturday to repeal the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which barred gays from serving openly. Democrats hope he will join them on New START as well. 


Kirk, a commander and intelligence specialist in the Navy reserves, is expected to be mindful of the strong endorsements that national military and intelligence leaders have given the treaty. 


Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said of the treaty: “I think the earlier, the sooner, the better. …. From an intelligence perspective only, are we better off with it or without it? We’re better off with it.”
 


Kirk voted for the McCain amendment.
 


Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiTrump education pick to face Warren, Sanders Schumer puts GOP on notice over ObamaCare repeal 9 GOP senators Trump must watch out for MORE (R-Alaska)


Murkowski has shown a new streak of independence since winning reelection as a write-in candidate without support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). 

Murkowski on Saturday voted for repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and for the DREAM Act, which would give legal status to illegal immigrants under a certain age who came to the country before turning 16 years old. 


She was one of 66 senators to vote this month to proceed to the START treaty.

Murkowski said last week she was reviewing the treaty and had not yet reached a decision. 


—This story was updated at 6:47 p.m.