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 KerryLobbying world Kerry: Trump not pursuing 'smart' or 'clever' plan on North Korea Tillerson will not send high-ranking delegation to India with Ivanka Trump: report 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 McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerFormer Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report McConnell 'almost certain' GOP will pass tax reform Former New Mexico gov: Trump's foreign policy is getting 'criticized by everybody' 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 ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama 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 SchumerAmerica isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ GOP should reject the left's pessimism and the deficit trigger MORE (D-N.Y.), Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnFormer GOP senator: Trump has a personality disorder Lobbying World -trillion debt puts US fiscal house on very shaky ground 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 McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters 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 AlexanderOvernight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Senate approves motion to go to tax conference House conservatives, Ryan inch closer toward spending deal MORE (Tenn.) and Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranObstruction of justice watch: Trump attacks the FBI America isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill 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 ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father 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 CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (Maine), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonSenate ethics panel wants details on sexual harassment allegations Senate leaders push tax debate into Friday Senate Ethics Committee opens 'preliminary inquiry' into Franken allegations MORE (Ga.), Mike JohannsMike JohannsFarmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World To buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington MORE (Neb.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Week ahead: Trump expected to shrink two national monuments GOP on verge of opening Arctic refuge to drilling 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.