Sup­port builds for ap­proval of US-Rus­sia nuke pact

The Pak Banker - - International -

WASHINGTON: Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is mov­ing closer to gain­ing Se­nate ap­proval of a ma­jor arms con­trol treaty with Rus­sia as he builds sup­port among re­luc­tant Repub­li­can sen­a­tors.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has stepped up its lob­by­ing of piv­otal Repub­li­cans to win ap­proval of the New START treaty, which has be­come Obama's main pri­or­ity for the re­main­ing leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

[ For com­plete cov­er­age of pol­i­tics and pol­icy, go to Ya­hoo! Pol­i­tics ]

With law­mak­ers mov­ing to­ward a fi­nal vote ex­pected this week, the White House and se­nior Democrats were ex­press­ing con­fi­dence Mon­day that they had the votes for the ac­cord.

Se­nior Democrats were push­ing for a de­ci­sive vote Tues­day to cut off de­bate and set the stage for the fi­nal vote. Repub­li­cans and Democrats were dis­cussing amend­ments to the ac­com­pa­ny­ing res­o­lu­tion, not the treaty, that would deal with Repub­li­can prob­lems with mis­sile de­fense and build sup­port for the agree­ment.

The United States and Rus­sia ne­go­ti­ated the New START pact to cap nu­clear weapons and restart weapons in­spec­tions in the spirit of U.S. ef­forts to re­set the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the for­mer Cold War foes.

Pro­po­nents edged closer to get­ting the two-thirds vote they needed for rat­i­fi­ca­tion as Repub­li­can Sen. Scott Brown an­nounced he would sup­port the treaty. In re­cent days, Brown had re­ceived a call from Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton.

Repub­li­can Sen. Johnny Isak­son, who also heard from Clin­ton, sent the strong­est sig­nal yet that he would sup­port rat­i­fi­ca­tion. He said he could see no rea­son that would pre­vent him from vot­ing yes.

Treaty back­ers also were heart­ened as sev­eral Repub­li­cans broke ranks, vot­ing against three Repub­li­can amend­ments that would have ef­fec­tively killed the treaty.

Obama, who de­layed his hol­i­day vacation, lob­bied sen­a­tors by phone as he pressed to com­plete the treaty be­fore Jan­uary. Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den also called law­mak­ers.

Bol­ster­ing Obama's ar­gu­ment for quick ac­tion, Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a let­ter to law­mak­ers re­it­er­at­ing sup­port for the ac­cord.

"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. I am con­fi­dent in its suc­cess as I am in its safe­guards. The sooner it is rat­i­fied, the bet­ter," Mullen wrote.

Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man John Kerry, a Demo­crat, read parts of Mullen's let­ter at a closed brief­ing. De­spite the let­ter, sev­eral con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans in­sist the treaty would re­strict U.S. op­tions on a mis­sile de­fense sys­tem to pro­tect Amer­ica and its al­lies and ar­gue that the ac­cord has in­suf­fi­cient pro­ce­dures to ver­ify Rus­sia's ad­her­ence.

Pol­i­tics coursed through the de­bate Mon­day as Repub­li­cans were still peeved by Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid's de­ci­sion to in­ter­rupt the six days of treaty con­sid­er­a­tion for votes on re­peal­ing the ban of gays serv­ing openly in the mil­i­tary and an un­suc­cess­ful im­mi­gra­tion mea­sure, leg­is­la­tion they con­sid­ered sops to the Demo­cratic Party's lib­eral base. "No sen­a­tor should be forced to make de­ci­sions like this so we can tick off an­other item on some­one's po­lit­i­cal check list be­fore the end of the year," Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, RKy., said. -Ap

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