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White House Hopeful For New START Despite GOP Opposition

Jenny Chen |
November 17, 2010 | 12:40 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

President Obama will continue pushing for ratification of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia despite GOP opposition, the White House said Wednesday.

U.S. Capitol (Creative Commons)
U.S. Capitol (Creative Commons)

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration is confident the treaty will garner enough votes to pass this year. 

Attempts to ratify a treaty with Russia were met with some GOP opposition Tuesday, putting a damper on Obama’s hopes to quickly create a new weapons agreement and restore amiable relations with Russia. 

Senate Minority Whip John Kyl (R-Ariz.) moved to block a vote on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). While White House officials expressed confidence they would press Kyl to ratify, Democrats said the likelihood is slim.

Senate Democrats and Republicans will meet today in party caucuses to discuss how to proceed. 

In a statement, Kyl said the Senate lame-duck session was too short to thoroughly discuss the treaty “given the combination of other work Congress must do and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization.” 

The original START was signed in 1991 and expired last December. The new START would set limits on U.S. and Russia’s nuclear weapons and resume mutual inspections.

Gaining approval for the treaty will be more difficult for the White House next year. Democrats will have six fewer seats in the Senate, leaving the administration with a task of convincing more Republicans to vote for ratification. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refuted Kyl’s statements in a press conference Wednesday.

“This is exactly what the American people expect us to do, to come together and do what is necessary to protect our country. We can and must go forward now on the new START treaty during the lame duck.”

Vice President Biden and other Democrat leaders worry that failure to ratify could hurt Obama’s credibility and damage relations with Russia. Biden’s statement released Tuesday said, “Failure to pass the New START Treaty this year would endanger our national security.”

The statement noted that without ratification, the U.S. would have no means to track Russia’s nuclear activities and cooperation would decrease between the two nations holding 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said the U.S. “relationship with Russia is at stake.” 

Reach staff reporter Jenny Chen here.
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