Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced his support for the START nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia, becoming a key Republican backer who brings some momentum to the Obama administration’s efforts to get to the Constitution’s required 67 votes for ratification.
“Madam President, I will vote to ratify the new START treaty with Russia — because it leaves our country with enough nuclear warheads to blow any attacker to Kingdom Come, and because the president has committed to an $85 billion, ten-year plan to make sure that those weapons work,” Alexander said on the Senate floor just now.
“I will vote for the treaty because it allows for inspection of Russian warheads, and because our military leaders say it does nothing to interfere with the development of a missile defense system. I will vote for the treaty because the last six Republican Secretaries of State support its ratification. In short, I’m convinced that Americans are safer and more secure with the new START treaty than without it.”
Alexander also made clear that his support was tied to a commitment by the Obama administration to update and maintain America’s weapons systems. And in addition — after Alexander had previously voted to filibuster this same treaty last week — he also criticized the Democrats for having worked on other big issues before the treaty now at hand:
“Madam President, I will vote to ratify this treaty, but the vote we are about to have today is on whether to end debate. The majority’s decision to jam through other matters during this lame duck session has poisoned the well — driven away Republican votes, and jeopardized ratification of this important treaty.
“Nevertheless, this treaty was presented in the Senate on May 13th. After 12 hearings in two committees and many briefings, the Foreign Relations Committee reported the treaty to the Senate on Sept 16th in a bipartisan vote of 14 to 4. For several months there have been intense negotiations to develop a realistic plan, and the funding for nuclear modernization. That updated plan was reported on November 17th.
“The Senate voted to proceed to the treaty last Wednesday. I voted no, because I thought there should still be more time allowed for amendment and debate But despite the flawed process, I believe the treaty and the nuclear nuclear modernization plan make our country safer and more secure.”
A key Senate vote is expected on START later this morning — to break a GOP filibuster and end debate so a final vote (requiring a two-thirds majority for ratification) can be held later this week.