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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes New START Treaty with Bipartisan Support

In a slightly surprising outcome (at least to me), three Republicans joined the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in approving the new START arms reduction treaty with Russia. The final vote on the committee was 14-4. According to Tony Fleming, Richard Lugar, Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson joined all the Democrats in voting Yes. Jim DeMint didn’t participate in the vote. Risch, Barrasso, Wicker and Inhofe voted no.

Lugar apparently got a draft noting the concerns of the Republican caucus to be adopted by the committee, but that didn’t materially change the text of the treaty. Some Republicans have expressed a desire to hold back on the treaty unless they got assurances on spending for modernizing the nuclear arsenal. This is mainly a bribe that Corker is extracting for modernizing facilities in Tennessee.

67 votes are required to pass a treaty in the Senate, which would require the aid of 8 Republicans if all Democrats united behind new START. Democrats have apparently locked up three of those eight Republicans, with more moderate Senators like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, George Voinovich and Scott Brown still available. The question is when this will get a Senate vote. John Kerry said in the session today that he would like to see a vote in the Senate before the President speaks to the UN General Assembly. But that would be pretty swift, and Kerry has perviously stated he didn’t expect a vote before the midterm elections.

The new START treaty would reduce nuclear stockpiles in the US and Russia by 1/3, and usher in a newer, stronger verification regime.

UPDATE: Majority Leader Reid’s response says nothing about when he’ll actually bring this up for a vote:

“The new START Treaty that the President signed with Russia in April reestablishes U.S. leadership on global non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, reduces Russia’s nuclear arsenal and takes concrete steps to secure a nuclear-free world without sacrificing America’s security. I am pleased that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed this historic agreement with strong bipartisan support today. I applaud the strong leadership of Chairman Kerry and Ranking Member Lugar who understand the importance of this agreement to our short-term and long-term national security goals. I look forward to bringing this treaty to the floor.”

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David Dayen

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