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Democrats Inch Closer to Ratifying START

A group of Senate Republicans all but conceded Tuesday that they can’t stop ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Senate Democrats are united behind START, meaning that nine Republicans are needed to achieve the supermajority coalition to ratify the nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) announced his support for the treaty Tuesday morning. Other Republicans expected to vote yes are Foreign Relations ranking member Dick Lugar (Ind.) and Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), George Voinovich (Ohio), Bob Bennett (Utah), Judd Gregg (N.H.), and Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

GOP Members who had labored vigorously to defeat START in its current form, if not delay the vote until next year, made a final effort to persuade their colleagues during a late-morning news conference.

“I stand here very disappointed that our lead negotiator on the Republican side, who is very serious about the treaty, who is very willing to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, basically is going to have his work product ignored and the treaty jammed through in the lame duck,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters, referring to Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Kyl said following the news conference that he is still trying to work out an agreement with Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) to allow the GOP to propose amendments to the resolution of ratification on START. Amending the resolution of ratification would not have the same effect as amending the treaty or its preamble, and it must be done prior to a vote to end debate on the measure, which could occur Tuesday afternoon.

Kyl would not rule out the possibility that Republicans would yield back time rather than running out the 30-hour clock on Tuesday’s post-cloture vote, meaning a vote on ratification could occur as soon as Wednesday.

“It depends on what kind of cooperation we get from the other side on getting some amendments up,” Kyl said. 

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