Senate ratifies long-stalled nuclear arms treaty with strong bipartisan support

Senate ratifies long-stalled nuclear arms treaty with strong bipartisan support

A large bipartisan group of senators gave President Obama his third major victory of the lame-duck session Wednesday afternoon by ratifying a long-stalled nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
 
The Senate approved the New START Treaty by a vote of 71-26, while Vice President Biden, who lobbied his former Republican colleagues intensely on the telephone in recent days, presided over the chamber. Thirteen Republican senators voted in favor.
 

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John KerryJohn Forbes KerryShould President Trump, like President Obama, forsake human rights in pursuit of the deal with a tyrant? GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system Democrats conflicted over how hard to hit Trump on Iran MORE (D-Mass.) secured the final GOP votes for the treaty by agreeing to accept two crucial amendments to the resolution for ratification.
 
One amendment, championed by Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainDon’t disrespect McCain by torpedoing his clean National Defense Authorization Act Meghan McCain rips Trump's 'gross' line about her dad Trump's America fights back MORE (R-Ariz.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senators hammer Ross over Trump tariffs GOP senator demands details on 'damaging' tariffs MORE (R-Tenn.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), formally recognized Obama’s commitment to move ahead with the development of missile defense systems, according to Democratic aides.
 
The second amendment, sponsored by Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the leading Republican critic of the treaty, codified Obama’s promise to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
 
These amendments, however, do not alter the treaty or its preamble and will not require U.S. negotiators to reopen their talks with the Russians.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidAmendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP Donald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary MORE (D-Nev.) said debate on the treaty had been "open, honest and thorough."

“This broadly bipartisan ratification sends a clear message to the world: America’s leadership on nuclear nonproliferation is strong and unwavering," he said in a statement.

“This treaty will reduce the stockpiles of the world's two largest nuclear powers, preserve our nation’s ability to defend itself, and maintain vigorous monitoring of Russia's nuclear arsenal," he added. "The fact that Democrats and Republicans came together to support this common sense measure to keep our nation safe sends the right message to our country and the world.”
 
Ratification of New START will allow the Senate to adjourn later Wednesday for the rest of the year, Senate sources said. Earlier in the day, Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDonald Trump Jr. headlines Montana Republican convention Montana's environmental lobby teams with governor to kill 600 jobs Dems allow separation of parents, children to continue, just to score political points MORE (D-N.Y.), Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnMr. President, let markets help save Medicare Pension insolvency crisis only grows as Congress sits on its hands Paul Ryan should realize that federal earmarks are the currency of cronyism MORE (R-Okla.) and others reached an agreement to set up a health benefits program for emergency personnel and clean-up workers who responded to the terror attacks of 9/11.
 
Lawmakers grew itchy to leave the Capitol as the final vote approached and pressed their colleagues to wrap up the debate in time to catch afternoon flights home.
 
The treaty between the U.S. and Russia would limit each side to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. 

 
It would also limit each nation to 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBMs, submarine ballistic missiles and bombers equipped for nuclear armament. Each side could not deploy more than 700 ICBMs, submarine launchers and heavy bombers, fewer than the number of strategic nuclear vehicles allowed under the old START Treaty. 

 
The U.S. has been unable to inspect Russia’s nuclear arsenal since the original START Treaty expired a year ago.
 
New START would allow on-site inspections, data exchanges and require regular notifications related to strategic offensive arms.  

 
The treaty would be effective for 10 years. 
 


Kerry and Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.), the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations panel who managed debate over the treaty, beat back several Republican attempts to amend the document’s preamble.
 
On Saturday, the Senate voted, 37-59, to reject an amendment sponsored by McCain that would have separated the link the preamble draws between defensive missile interceptors and efforts to reduce American and Russian stockpiles of strategic offensive weapons. 
 
The treaty’s preamble specifically links the issues by “recognizing the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms” and goes on to state “this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced.”
 
Republican critics repeatedly criticized the language and warned it threatened to curtail national missile defense systems at a time when countries such as Iran and North Korea are developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear payloads.
 
Obama sought to ease those concerns by sending a letter to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPolitical figures pay tribute to Charles Krauthammer Charles Krauthammer dies at the age of 68 Overnight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos MORE (Ky.) over the weekend pledging his support for missile defense.
 
“The New START treaty places no limitations on the development or deployment of our missile defense programs,” Obama wrote. “As the NATO summit meeting in Lisbon last month underscored, we are proceeding apace with a missile defense system in Europe designed to provide full coverage for NATO members on the continent, as well as deployed U.S. forces.”
 
Obama also sent letters to GOP Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Supreme Court allows states to collect sales taxes from online retailers | Judge finds consumer bureau structure unconstitutional | Banks clear Fed stress tests Supreme Court rules states can require online sellers to collect sales tax 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families MORE (Tenn.) and Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranTodd Young in talks about chairing Senate GOP campaign arm US farming cannot afford to continue to fall behind Mississippi Democrat drops Senate bid MORE (Miss.) making assurances on modernization. Obama noted his administration requested a nearly 10 percent increase in the budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration and plans to spend more than $85 billion on modernization in the next decade.
 
“I recognize that nuclear modernization requires investments for the long-term, in addition to this one-year budget increase,” he wrote in a letter dated Dec. 20. “That is my commitment to the Congress — that my administration will pursue these programs and capabilities for as long as I am president.”
 
The treaty received a major boost from Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who wrote a letter to Kerry endorsing it.
 
“This treaty has the full support of your uniformed military, and we all support ratification,” Mullen wrote in a Dec. 20 letter.
 
“Through the trust it engenders, the cuts it requires, and the flexibility it preserves, this treaty enhances our ability to do that which we in the military have been charged to do: protect and defend the citizens of the United States.”

Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Judiciary Committee subpoenas FBI agent who sent anti-Trump texts Clapper: Trump was serious when he said he wants citizens to act like North Koreans do for Kim Hillary Clinton: Fundamental rights are 'under assault like never before' MORE on Wednesday called ratification of the treaty a "great step forward" in enhancing U.S. national security and said New START represents another important element of the "reset" of relations with Russia.

Republicans who backed the treaty included Sens. Alexander, Cochran, Corker, Lugar, Bob Bennett (Utah), Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Gang of Four to meet next week on immigration Republicans agree — it’s only a matter of time for Scott Pruitt Skyrocketing insulin prices provoke new outrage MORE (Maine), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senators hammer Ross over Trump tariffs Overnight Finance: Senators introduce bill to curb Trump's tariff authority | McConnell calls it 'exercise in futility' | Kudlow warns WTO won't dictate policy | Mulvaney feud with consumer advocates deepens MORE (Ga.), Mike JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Farmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World MORE (Neb.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHeitkamp ad highlights record as Senate race heats up Icebreaking ships are not America’s top priority in the Arctic 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families MORE (Alaska), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and George Voinovich (Ohio).

Lugar, Corker and Isakson backed the treaty in committee.

This post was last updated at 5:19 p.m.