Gibbs: START will be done by Christmas

A long-stalled nuclear arms treaty with Russia will be ratified before Christmas, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.

Gibbs expressed confidence that optimistic statements from two Republican senators Tuesday indicate the GOP is ready to cooperate with Democrats and authorize the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

{mosads}”Harry, the START Treaty will be done by Christmas,” Gibbs said on CBS’s “Early Show.”

The chances of passage for START during the lame-duck session seemed grim just days ago in the face of near-uniform Republican objections to the pact, but Gibbs’s comments show the tide could be turning.

The votes of 67 senators are needed to ratify the treaty.

Led by chief negotiator Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Republicans have voiced concern that the new treaty, which replaces one that expired last December, would not allow the U.S. to modernize its nuclear arsenal and maintain a strong enough missile defense system.

But Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that they hope the Senate can ratify the treaty this year.

“You saw yesterday increasing willingness from Republican senators to get the treaty done,” Gibbs said.

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