Obama lobbies GOP senators to back arms pact
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama tried to sway reluctant Republican senators on Monday to back a new arms control treaty with Russia as GOP aversion to giving a politically damaged president another victory intruded on his national security agenda.
The White House and senior Democrats expressed confidence that they had the votes for the accord that was signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April. The two countries 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.
Obama, who delayed his holiday vacation, lobbied senators by phone as he pressed to complete the treaty before January when Republicans increase their numbers by five in the Senate, casting the accord’s fate in doubt. Bolstering his argument for quick action, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a letter to congressional leaders 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.
Senior Democrats pushed toward a decisive vote on today to cut off debate and set the stage for a final vote later in the week. A top Democrat announced the backing of one key Republican — longtime Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran — but acknowledged that getting to the necessary two-thirds vote the Constitution requires for ratification would be far from easy.
Politics coursed through the debate on 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 the gay ban and an unsuccessful immigration measure, legislation they considered a sop to the Democratic Party’s liberal base.