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Senate Ratifies START Treaty, 71 to 26; a Win for Obama, a Loss for Jon Kyl

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The Senate voted 71 to 26 Wednesday to ratify the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, a nuclear disarmament agreement with Russia signed by President Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev in April. Thirteen Republicans joined 58 Democrats to help the measure easily pass the two-thirds majority needed for ratification.

The vote was a blow to Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, who had tried mightily to persuade his colleagues to defeat the treaty, as well as a victory for President Obama, who named the START Treaty as his top foreign policy priority for the lame-duck session of Congress and spent hours working through Republicans' objections to win their support for the pact.

The Republicans voting yes were Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Robert Bennett (Utah), Scott Brown (Mass.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Judd Gregg (N.H.) Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Richard Lugar (Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska.), Olympia Snowe (Maine.), and George Voinovich (Ohio).

Vice President Joe Biden, the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired the Senate for the vote in his role as the president of the chamber, while Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) surprised his colleagues by showing up for the vote two days after surgery for prostate cancer.

The treaty, known as "New START," requires Russia and the United States to reduce their nuclear warheads by half, cut the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles and missile launchers, and submit to on-site inspections by the other country's weapons experts. A controversial preamble also states that current missile defense systems would not undermine the treaty, a clause that Republicans contend was written by the Russians to lay the groundwork to object to future American missile defense systems.

The Wednesday vote came after Democrats accepted two amendments -- one from Kyl and one from Sen. John McCain -- stating the Obama administration's commitment to modernizing nuclear weapons facilities and to pursuing a robust missile defense program in the future.

Despite the accommodations he won from the White House, Kyl has led the charge against the treaty since it was signed by the president in April, and he went to the Senate floor just before the vote to give his final argument against it.

"There isn't time to lay out all of the problems that I think that those of us who oppose the treaty still believe are present in the treaty," Kyl said. "The precedent here that we're establishing is that the Senate really is a rubber stamp. Whatever the president negotiates with the Russians or somebody else, we dare not change because it will have to be renegotiated to some great detriment to humanity."

As Kyl complained that the treaty had been jammed through the Senate and that it would put the United States at a strategic disadvantage, several of his GOP colleagues defended both the process in the Senate and the agreement itself.

"This has been a seven-month process, not a nine-day process," said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), a member of the Senate foreign Relations Committee that approved the treaty in September. "When it's ratified today it will be a step forward for my children and my grandchildren."

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) praised the White House's role in the process. "The administration officials have bent over backwards to try to solve every problem that's come up," Corker said. "The administration has not only solved problems for people who might vote for the treaty, they've tried to solve problems for people they know are not going to vote for the treaty."

The issue has become increasingly contentious, as Democrats have pushed Republicans to approve the treaty without significant changes, while many Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have accused the Obama administration of rushing the treaty toward passage without giving the Senate enough time to fully consider it.

During the final debate Wednesday, several Republicans accused the president personally of weakening the United States' role in the world with New START.

"This treaty is just another example, another symptom, of a foreign policy that sends a message of timidity, even ambivalence, not only about our own security, but about America's leadership role in a very dangerous world," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) agreed. "I think it makes us less secure, not more secure as a nation," Vitter said. "It's clear to me that President Obama went into negotiations willing to give up almost anything to get a treaty and that basic posture produced what it always will -- a bad deal of us."

Although Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) had intended to speak about the treaty, he stopped to chastise Vitter and Cornyn for their remarks about President Obama.

Nelson said he was raised to believe that when the commander in chief travels abroad, "there is no partisanship when that occurs, and it is troubling to this senator to hear comments about our president," Nelson said. "I would think we ought to rise above that partisanship when issues of national security are at stake."

Nelson went on to deliver his speech, saying the agreement will strengthen national security.

As senators gathered for the final vote, Sen. John Kerry, the treaty's champion in the Senate and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thanked the Republicans who joined the Democrats in supporting the pact that could not have ratified without bipartisan backing, and gave his closing argument for it.

"In the final analysis, regardless of where you stand on the START treaty, this is one of those rare times in the United States Senate . . . when we have it in our power to safeguard or to endanger human life on this planet," Kerry said.

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This may have been a win for Obama, however it wasn't a win for the US. If you read this bill it is skewed in the Russians favor and there isn't much good in it at all for the US. So Obama won but at what cost for the country??

December 29 2010 at 3:45 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

We don't need nukes on this planet. This begins the process of getting rid of the devices, and controlling the ones that are left. Along with this treaty, the UN and individual nations need to step forward and stop proliferation.

December 26 2010 at 5:21 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

This is a huge Victory for President Obama, for Senator Kerry and Republican Senator Lugar, who is from a Border State. Senator Kerry has proven that the most powerful and competent Democrat is New England is John Kerry. Now that he no longer has to live in Kennedy's shadow, I look forward to his continued leadership in Foreign Policy Issues. His Committee is the one place we should all speak for what is best for the Country. On the Treaty, the arguments were so flawed, and the premises that Senators Kyl and Kirk based their arguments on, I would fire whatever staffer was feeding them misinformation. A written document or e-mail read without interpretation or context is the equivalent of Wikileaking our Foreign Policy.

On a completely seperate note, I would like Texas to explain why they embrace taking undocumented immigrants into their census count, while Florida is left without their Seasonal Snow Birds in their census Count. Florida should be +3, same as Texas, but that is over now. A great state will have a talented house delegation grow even larger in 2012. The rest of the other 49 have 2 years to prepare and adjust.

December 25 2010 at 4:25 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Anna's comment

Texas simply put, wants the money from a larger count than includes illegals. California is saying their count is off by 1.5 to 2 million. Its about representation/seats in Congress, and the power to bring subsidies to home states.

December 26 2010 at 5:25 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The Republicans are still stuck on "Star Wars" the only thing they would support quicker than that is another War. Both are on the NeoCons wish list.

December 24 2010 at 12:56 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
John Vilvens

No missile defense system. The one obama is buying does not work and was not test and he bought it. Now with the preamble to this treaty and agreement with russia we cannot work on missile defense. So when North Korea or Iran or any other country try to nuke america we will have no defense system. This is a great seal for any country that want to nuke america, russia is not the only other country with nukes.

December 23 2010 at 7:41 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply

This is a victory for people in this country younger than me. It is not a victory for the President, nor for other politicins. Why some elected persons would try to stop something so beneficial to the populace has to amaze even the stalwarts at Fox. The onlything jammed downon the citizens was thwe invasion of Iraq supported by those same elements who stand firmly entrenched against this treaty. Maybe these fine Americans are upset they have not killed enough young people yet?

December 23 2010 at 4:22 PM Report abuse +16 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cpadmitchell's comment

I was beginning to like what you were saying then you began to digress!

December 23 2010 at 5:01 PM Report abuse -17 rate up rate down Reply

It has been determined by our Nuclear Defense Department that only 303 American nukes are needed to destroy our planet as we know it.
Everything else is simply overkill and puts us at risk for a terrorist group to acquire one of them.
Many posters on this board seem ignorant of that fact.

December 23 2010 at 11:17 AM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jbivens544's comment
Seth Wynd

Pappy, what world do you live in where 303 nuclear missiles counts as saying "we don't need no weapons, just smile big." Seriously, the only time that many nukes would NOT cut it is if the entire world attacked us at once.

January 08 2011 at 8:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It's a loss for America, stupid!!! Now our missle defense program is going the way of the DoDo! This administration is going to get us all killed. At least with all of his faults you liberals keep spouting off about, George Bush kept us safe and would never compromise America's safety!

December 23 2010 at 9:46 AM Report abuse -20 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to donnal777's comment

George Bush supported the treaty.

December 23 2010 at 3:10 PM Report abuse +20 rate up rate down Reply

Sure, he kept us very safe. If we don't count the 3,000 people who lost their lives on 9/11. Oops!

December 23 2010 at 4:04 PM Report abuse +17 rate up rate down Reply
lo colon

When you have the two most powerful countries in the world continue, via a treaty, nuclear disarmament, maybe we can truly achieve peace on earth, notwithstanding a certain 'naivety' from most countries. Imagine certain rogue countries 'slyly' going nuclear with the intent to threaten the world? Russia, the U.S., Britania, Isreal, or perhaps some other nations' intelligence services uncover this dastardly plot? You think the world is going to wait until we get a Hawkish Republican president before the world takes action? Or do we fall back to the Chicken Little gang of Kyl, McCain, Coryn, and other 'mental geniuses' hysterically crying "I told you so"?

December 23 2010 at 9:44 AM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply
Bob Alexander

We have known for decades that we have more than enought nuclear weaponry to destroy life on earth as we know it. What is important is the direction of movement. To reduce the stockpile and to reduce our dependence upon destruction is a good thing for all mankind. Special thanks go to the couragous Republican Senators who joined the Democrats in passing this important legislation. We hope to see the people's business continue to be accomplished by such bipartisan action. Only then will our democracy be defended. Strong independent legislators are to be admired whatever they call themselves.

December 23 2010 at 8:59 AM Report abuse +20 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Bob Alexander's comment

In this case we can call those legislators who voted for this treaty as traitors to the security of this country. Thanks loads guys. You must have stock in a company that makes white flags.

The only "business" our modern legislators - Establishment GOP and Dem alike - have taken care of is to completely RUIN the wonderful gift of freedom and this great country our founding fathers gave us.

Good job guys. One of the bright shining spots in the history of mankind, and you guys drove it right into a ditch. Only the brain-dead political class in D.C. and the northeast generally could imagine you're doing a good job.

Incredible - undeserved - arrogance.

December 23 2010 at 9:20 AM Report abuse -18 rate up rate down Reply

well put, Bob

January 06 2011 at 4:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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