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New arms treaty with Russia passes key hurdle, advances to ratification vote
One of the main weapons facilities that will benefit from funding for nuclear modernization is in Alexander's and Corker's home state of Tennessee.
Murkowski said in a statement that she would vote for ratification "as a modest step forward in our efforts to reduce the risk of nuclear war." She said she was persuaded that ratification "will have no effect on missile defense" and quoted from a letter she received from top Pentagon officials.
Voinovich said in a floor speech that "the overwhelming evidence" shows the treaty is in "the best interest of our national security" and that the Senate should ratify it. "And understand that nuclear proliferation is the greatest international threat to our children and grandchildren," he said.
"We are on the brink of writing the next chapter in the 40-year history of wrestling with the threat of nuclear weapons," Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement after the cloture vote. He said he would work "to convince those who remain undecided that ratifying New START is the right step for our national security."
Two Democrats missed the cloture vote Tuesday: Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), who just underwent surgery for prostate cancer, and Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.), who is attending events in his home state.
Bayh's spokesman, Brian Weiss, said he would be back in time for the final vote, and that "he supports ratification." A spokeswoman for Wyden said he is recovering in the District and would make it to the Senate for the ratification vote if necessary. Without Wyden's presence - and assuming all other senators show up - ratification would require 66 votes.
The New START treaty has gotten caught up in the political tempest of the lame-duck session, with Republicans angry that the Obama administration is pushing the treaty and other favored issues before the Democrats' Senate majority shrinks next year.
"Our top concern should be the safety and security of our nation, not some politician's desire to declare a political victory and host a press conference before the first of the year," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared in a floor speech on Monday. He and the second-ranking Republican in the chamber, Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), oppose the treaty.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Republican lawmakers had raised legitimate issues, but "we believe that we've answered those concerns. . . . Any objections at this point are more about politics than substance."
Mullen sent a letter to the Senate on Monday strongly urging support for the treaty. It was, in essence, a rebuke to Republicans who have sought to postpone consideration of the treaty until next year and amend it to allow more inspections and to raise the number of permitted nuclear-capable missiles and aircraft.
"The sooner it is ratified, the better," he wrote, saying that New START was "vital to U.S. national security."
Mullen emphasized that he had been personally involved in the treaty's negotiations. "Military perspectives were thoroughly considered," he wrote.